Despite Scandals, The Dept. of Veterans Affairs Paid Millions in Bonuses Last Year

A disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence.

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How many stories have been written here about the Department of Veterans Affairs or the VA?

Let’s run through a few:

  • There’s the story about the vet who didn’t get his check because the VA thought he was dead. He tried to convince them he wasn’t.
  • Then there’s the story about 2,500 VA employees who were paid to sit at home. The VA claims they have no idea what that was about.
  • There’s the story about the VA overpaying $3 million for property and then lying to Congress about it.
  • Who could forget the time the VA used medical records to retaliate against whistleblowers?
  • And don’t forget the one about the VA shredding mail related to disability compensation claims.
  • Recently, several VA officials took the Fifth when asked to testify. That’s comforting.
  • Finally, the grand-daddy of them all, 307,000 vets waiting to get on a waiting list to get treatment. Again, they weren’t waiting for treatment, but waiting to get on a list.

Well, after all that, there’s only one thing to do — start handing out bonuses.

From the USA Today:

The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans’ health care and other issues racked the agency.

And it’s not enough to just hand out bonuses. That’s not the VA style.

No, these bonuses have to go to people who really screw things up. Like the claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that was dubbed the worst in the country last year. They took home anywhere from $300 to $900 apiece.

Then there’s the bonuses awarded to the executives who managed to run the construction of a Denver facility more than a billion dollars over budget. They were given anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 in bonuses.

A chief of staff investigators singled out in a report detailing mismanagement that resulted in mass resignations of health care providers was also awarded a bonus of around $4,000.

That’s just three examples. More than 156,000 VA employees received a bonus.

The VA said it was to keep good staff.

VA spokesman James Hutton reportedly said, “VA will continue to review tools and options in order to ensure the department is able to attract and retain the best talent to serve our nation’s veterans, while operating as a good steward of taxpayer funds.”

We can’t wait for that to start.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck with people like the “Candy Man,” also known as Dr. David Houlihan. The good doctor got his nickname because of his “prolific prescribing of narcotics.” An inspector general report showed he earned that moniker, citing him doling out high amounts of opiates. One Marine Corps vet died.

Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, 35, died of “mixed-drug toxicity” as an inpatient at Tomah after he was prescribed a fatal cocktail of medications, including opiates.

The “Candy Man” got a $4,000 bonus. The inpatient pharmacist also received extra loot, pocketing a $1,050 bonus in December.

Oh, and remember that story about VA officials taking the Fifth? Yeah, about that:

VA benefits office director Kimberly Graves received a bonus of $8,697 for 2014 performance. A VA inspector general report issued in September this year concluded Graves improperly used her authority to engineer a switch into her current post in October 2014. IG investigators concluded she also improperly received an additional $129,000 related to the move. Graves pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer questions at a House VA Committee hearing last week.

Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House VA committee, was not impressed. According to the USA Today, he called the bonuses a “disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence.”

“VA loves to tout its bonus program as a way to attract and retain the best and brightest employees,” he asserted. “Unfortunately, often times the employees VA rewards with thousands in taxpayer-funded bonuses are not the type of people the department should be interested in attracting or retaining.”


Photo Credit: 123rf


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