Legislation introduced Wednesday by the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee would ban senior executives in the Department of Veterans Affairs from receiving performance bonuses for the next five years.

The department has been criticized for paying big bonuses to many senior officials, despite the large backlogs of disability claims that plague many VA offices around the country.

The proposed amendment by Rep. Jeff Miller, (R.-Fla.) was unanimously approved by the committee Wednesday as an amendment to the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013.

“The fact that so many VA executives collected huge performance bonuses year after year while continually failing at their jobs calls into question whether department leaders even know the meaning of the word ‘accountability’,” Miller said in a statement.

The VA has announced that senior executives in the Veterans Benefits Administration will not receive performance awards for fiscal year 2012 because of the organization’s overall performance.  Instead, the funds will be reinvested to accelerate elimination of the backlog.

In addition, the 2012 performance awards for some executives in the Veterans Health Administration’s Southeast and Pennsylvania medical networks are being held up pending review.

The VA said it has reduced the amount of performance awards it distributes in recent years from $3.3 million in 2009 to $2.3 million in 2012. The highest executive performance award in 2009 was 17.5 percent of salary, compared to 9 percent in 2012, according to department figures.

Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Fla.) chairman of the House Veterans’s Affairs Committee

Miller said that the VA’s actions “are steps in the right direction, [but] they don’t go nearly far enough.”

Miller added that “until we have complete confidence that VA is holding executives accountable – rather than rewarding them – for their mistakes, no one should get a performance bonus. Period.”

The VA said the bonuses are meant as an incentive to both hire and retain talented executives, and are meant  to take into account both individual and overall organizational performance goals.

“To continue to serve our nation’s veterans, VA must continue to attract and retain the best and brightest leaders,” the department said in a statement.