In the midst of a veterans' healthcare scandal,
the Department of Veterans Affairs still managed to award more than $142 million in performance bonuses — including to a doctor at a medical facility known for its overuse of narcotics,
and to claims' workers at a notoriously inept
The VA also rewarded off-site executives
managing a Denver building project that veered $1 billion over budget, USA Today
Citing data provided by GOP Florida Rep. Jeff Miller's House Veterans Affairs Committee, the newspaper reports a total of 156,000 executives, managers and workers collected bonuses for their 2014 performance, with payments ranging from $8 to as much as $12,705, with the average totaling $909.
Miller tells the newspaper the data show a "disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence."
"Rewarding failure only breeds more failure," he tells the newspaper. "Until VA leaders learn this important lesson and make a commitment to supporting real accountability at the department, efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail."
The recipients included:
- Former chief of the VA medical center in Tomah, Wis., Dr. David Houlihan — nicknamed the "Candy Man" by vets for his prescribing of narcotics — who collected $4,000. One veteran died at the center from "mixed-drug toxicity," USA Today reports.
- VA officials in Washington who oversaw a late and billion-dollar over-budget Denver building project, including Stella Fiotes, executive director of the VA's Office of Construction and Facilities Management, who got a $8,985 bonus; Dennis Milsten, an associate director in the same office, who got $8,069; and Chris Kyrgos, former national acquisitions director, who took home $3,800.
- Claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year received $300 to $900 each.
"VA loves to tout its bonus program as a way to attract and retain the best and brightest employees," Miller tells the newspaper.
"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."
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