VA Pressed to Take Back Senior Staff Bonuses Over Scandal

Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 02:10 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Department of Veteran Affairs is coming under mounting pressure from Democrats and Republicans to take back bonuses for senior staff who were in charge at VA medical centers when appointment times were falsified to cover up treatment delays for patients, The Washington Post reported.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller said the VA secretary has the authority "to rescind these bonuses" within a year after they were paid.

"I am calling on him to take this action where he deems appropriate," said Miller, a Florida Republican.

The waiting times for veterans needing appointments with doctors were manipulated at dozens of VA facilities so that senior staff could earn bonuses based on meeting performance goals.

At least 40 veterans died in a Phoenix medical center waiting for treatment while they were on fake appointment lists at the same time they were on secret lists that showed their actual waiting times for treatment.

Miller’s demand for the rollback of bonuses comes just days after Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire introduced legislation forcing the VA to take back performance awards for employees involved in the scheduling scandal.

"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.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee recently revealed that the department gave out $380,000 in bonuses to top officials in charge of 38 hospitals involved in the scheduling scandal, while a total of $2.8 million in performance awards was given to senior executives overall, according to USA Today.

Susan Bowers, a regional medical director running the Phoenix medical clinic where the fake lists first came to light, was paid a bonus of nearly $9,000 in 2013, according to the data. She retired under a cloud of controversy in May.

Cynthia McCormick, director of a VA medical center in Cheyenne, Wyo., earned an $8,265 bonus in 2013, even though her clinic is accused of falsifying appointment records and punishing employees who refused to take part in the practice.

Shortly before former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May, he suspended executive bonuses for 2014, while earlier that month the House banned performance awards for all senior VA officials, the Post reported.

President Barack Obama has nominated former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the embattled agency. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson.

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