House approves bill to limit bonuses for VA employees

October 30, 2013

The House this week approved legislation that to cut bonuses and performance awards for the Department of Veterans Affairs by nearly 13 percent annually.

The measure, which passed unanimously on Monday08, would limit the payouts to $345 million each year through 2018, whereas the agency spent about $395 million on such compensation last year, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Department of Veterans Affairs (Charles Dharapak/AP) – Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters.

The provision was tacked on to the bottom of a bill that largely dealt with the VA’s protocol for informing applicants of claims decisions — requiring the agency to provide appeals forms along with denial notices — and protecting the benefits of veterans whose financial trustees are under investigation for wrongdoing.

VA bonuses have come under scrutiny this year while the agency has experienced increased turmoil.

The department in 2011 gave away more than $5.5 million in bonuses to its claims processors despite a ballooning claims backlog, according to a Washington Post report.  The pileup grew to 900,000 cases this year before the VA implemented a “surge” that included mandatory overtime for processors.

The VA also came under fire in a CBS report for awarding $63,000 in performance pay to one of its regional directors shortly after a probe determined that his VA medical centers failed to prevent a Legionnaire’s outbreak.

The measure that lawmakers approved on Monday would save the government about $310 million over the next five years, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) sponsored the legislation, joined by four Republicans and five other Democrats who co-sponsored it.

(Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the VA fell short of its goal for reducing a longstanding backlog problem, but that reference related to the Office of Personnel Management dealing with a separate backlog problem unrelated to the VA).

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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