USA Today reports that last year the Department of Veterans Affairs handed out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees despite the fact that many of those executives and employees were at the center of the long string of scandals that has rocked the VA recently. Just what the VA doesn’t need – another scandal.
According to data provided by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the VA paid performance-based bonuses last year to 156,000 executives, managers and employees. At the same time, the Cato Institute reports that the US Office of Personnel Management says that the VA had 341,000 employees in 2014 This means that 48% of the VA’s employees received 2014 performance bonuses, including the executives in the VA Health Administration who have been at the very center of the VA’s scandals.
One of the disgraced VA executives who received a fat bonus in 2014 was Kimberly Graves, the VA’s benefits office director in St. Paul, Minnesota, who was chastised in a report issued last September by the VA Office of the Inspector General (VA-OIG). The investigation found that Graves had coerced a VA regional office director who worked for her to take another job so that Graves could fill the fill the position herself because she wanted to move. Graves received a performance-based bonus of $8,697 for 2014, despite the fact that the VA’s Inspector General concluded that last October Graves had improperly used her authority to engineer a switch to her current post, and that Graves had also improperly received a $129,000 payment from the VA related to the move. When Graves was called to testify before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, she pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer questions. But she got a big fat bonus anyway.
Last April, the media was flooded with reports that 40 veterans in Phoenix, Arizona had died while awaiting treatment at the VA medical center there. But Sandra Flint, the former VA Regional Office Director in Phoenix received a performance-based bonus of $8,348 anyway. Since 2007, Flint has received more than $53,000 in bonuses from the VA despite the fact that backlog of disability compensation claims at the Phoenix VA has doubled since 2009, and despite the fact that under her leadership the Phoenix VA medical center was the focus of the national VA wait-time scandal. The Phoenix VA had a backlog of about 8,200 benefit claims, including 3,667 that had been pending for more than 125 days. Under Flint’s leadership, the hospital staff hid that by creating a false waiting list. But, Flint got a performance-based bonus anyway.
According to the USA Today report, the list of people who should have been disciplined, but still received performance-based bonuses goes on and on: from the VA doctor in Tomah, Washington who earned the nickname “Dr. Death” because he prescribed so many opiates; to the managers of a VA construction project in Denver that is way over budget; to a VA financial manager in Georgia who was driving while intoxicated and caused the death of another VA employee. If you work for the VA, what do you have to do in order to not to get a performance-based bonus?