Senate bill forces repayment of VA bonuses

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a bill that would take back bonuses paid to VA employees who falsified waitlist times.

“The use of secret waitlists by VA employees to hide actual wait times resulted in the delay or denial of veterans' access to timely care” Ayotte said Wednesday. “It's outrageous that employees who deliberately manipulated waitlists received bonus pay, and they must be held fully accountable for their misconduct - starting with repaying the funds they wrongly received.”

ADVERTISEMENT
The senators said some Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees wrongly received these bonuses because compliance with wait-time metrics was a factor in determining employee bonuses.

“I'm pleased this bipartisan legislation will hold responsible any VA employee found to have cooked the books on wait times, and will help us quickly recover bonuses and raises paid to those fraudsters with taxpayer dollars,” McCaskill said.

Their bill directs the VA secretary to require employees who received bonuses in 2011 or later to repay them if they removed a veteran’s name from a healthcare waitlist. The employee's superiors would also be required to pay back bonuses if they knew, or should have known, of the actions.

The administration has been investigating the VA claims system and backlog. It has found that some facilities have falsified information on wait times.

House and Senate conferees are working on bicameral legislation to address the problem. The bill would give the VA secretary more flexibility to fire those involved in the scandal and allow some veterans to seek medical care outside the VA system.