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Pressure mounting to rescind VA bonuses over scheduling scandal

Lawmakers from both parties are increasing pressure to take back performance awards for senior Department of Veterans Affairs executives who oversaw VA medical clinics that falsified their appointment records to hide treatment delays.

“The VA secretary has the authority to rescind these bonuses anytime within a year of when they were paid, and I am calling on him to take this action where he deems appropriate,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said in a statement Monday.

Miller’s remarks came less than a week after Sens. Clair McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced legislation that would require the VA to take back performance awards for employees involved in the agency’s 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 unveiled VA bonus data showing that the department awarded more than $380,000 to officials running 38 hospitals suspected of falsifying appointment records or known to have experienced extensive treatment delays. Overall, the VA paid more than $2.8 million in performance awards to its senior executives, according to the data.

The bonus numbers were first reported in a USA Today article.

The VA data show that Susan Bowers, a regional medical director who oversaw the Phoenix clinic at the center of the scheduling controversy, received a nearly $9,000 performance award for 2013. She retired in May, days before the resignation of former VA secretary Eric Shinseki.

The data also show that Cynthia McCormick, director of a VA medical center in Cheyenne, Wyo., received an $8,265 bonus for 2013. Her clinic is accused of falsifying scheduling records and punishing employees who would not comply with the practice.

Shinseki announced before stepping down that the VA would suspend executive performance awards for 2014. Earlier that month, the House passed a measure to ban bonuses for all senior VA officials.

The Senior Executives Association criticized the House measure in May, saying a blanket ban on performance awards would “punish those senior executives who are high performing and those who may not have a direct line of responsibility for the issues being raised.” The group has also argued that halting bonuses will deter top executive talent from wanting to work for the VA.