Lawmakers want VA to explain bonuses
Hope Yen, Associated Press – May 3, 2007
Congressional leaders on Thursday demanded that the Veterans Affairs secretary explain hefty bonuses for senior department officials involved in crafting a budget that came up $1 billion short and jeopardized veterans’ health care.
Rep. Harry Mitchell, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on oversight, said he would hold hearings to investigate after The Associated Press reported that budget officials at the Veterans Affairs Department received bonuses ranging up to $33,000.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, who heads the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the payments pointed to an improper “entitlement for the most centrally placed or well-connected staff.” He has sent a letter to VA chief Jim Nicholson asking what the department plans to do to eliminate any bonuses based on favoritism.
“These reports point to an apparent gross injustice at the VA that we have a responsibility to investigate,” said Mitchell, D-Ariz. “No government official should ever be rewarded for misleading taxpayers, and the VA should not be handing out the most lucrative bonuses in government as veterans are waiting months and months to see a doctor.”
A list obtained by the AP of bonuses to senior career officials in 2006 documents a generous package of more than $3.8 million in payments by a financially strapped agency straining to help care for thousands of injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not the only instance in which the Administration has awarded bonuses in complete disconnect with performance. During a hearing in the Oversight Committee on Homeland Security Contracting, Rep. Elijah Cummings and Comptroller General David Walker discussed contractor bonuses for “attitude and effort” — as opposed to performance:
“Help me with this, I mean our constituents are looking at this, it might take them a lifetime to make four million dollars, we’ve got boats that aren’t even floating, and they’re trying to figure out ‘why is somebody getting a bonus?’”