VA Paid $142M in Bonuses for 2014 Despite Fake Wait List Scandal

Phoenix VA Health Care Center / AP

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs handed out more than $142 million in bonuses to employees and executives for their work in 2014, the same year that news broke of the fake wait list scandal that lead to the deaths of dozens of veterans.

USA Today reported:

Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year. They received $300 to $900 each. Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans–one of whom died. The VA also rewarded executives who managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget. They took home $4,000 to $8,000 each. And in St. Cloud, Minn., where an internal investigation report last year outlined mismanagement that led to mass resignations of health care providers, the chief of staff cited by investigators received a performance bonus of almost $4,000.

Before resigning last year, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki suspended bonuses after employees were found to have used fake wait lists to conceal the amount of time veterans were waiting for healthcare, meet wait-time targets, and thereby receive bonuses. However, Shinseki only suspended bonuses for executives in the senior level of the VA’s network of hospitals, the Veterans Health Administration.

The government agency has continued to award bonuses, based on performance, to almost half of its executives, managers, and employees. About 156,000 VA employees received bonuses for work in 2014.

In response, a VA spokesman said the majority of its employees are devoted to serving the nation’s veterans.

"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," spokesman James Hutton stated.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, labeled the findings evidence of a "disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence." He has been probing VA bonuses for years.