House cuts millions from VA bonuses

The House voted Monday to cut $55 million from the bonuses that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can pay its federal employees.

Members voice-voted H.R. 1405, a bill that is also aimed at making it easier for veterans to appeal benefit denial decisions, and granting honorary veteran status for people who serve for 20 years in the reserves.

According to members of the Veterans Affairs Committee, the VA spends about $400 million each year on employee bonuses. Under the legislation, bonuses would be capped at $345 million each year through the end of fiscal year 2018.

The bill was passed in a quick voice vote after a brief debate in which members barely mentioned the cut, and focused on other aspects of the bill. The VA Committee, however, has said cuts to bonuses are needed in light of the management failures of the VA, such as the backlog of veterans claims.

The House approved several other veterans bills on Monday:

— H.R. 3304, authorizing the President to award the Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans. The bill also makes it easier for seven other veterans to be awarded, those whose acts were discovered during an examination of Jewish American and Hispanic American servicemembers who should receive the Medal of Honor. Passed in voice vote.

— H.R. 1742, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act, which exempts expenses related to in-home aid when determining income under federal housing programs for veterans. Passed in voice vote.

— H.R. 2481, the Veterans Economic Opportunity Act, which is aimed at streamlining veterans' education programs to ensure the family members of deceased servicemembers receive the education benefits to which they are entitled. Passed in voice vote.

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