A Congressional Budget Office analysis said that the VA pays roughly $400 million each year for awards and bonuses, about $4 million of that going to senior employees.
The bill would give the VA secretary broad discretion to claw back cash payments simply by determining that action would be “appropriate.” The affected employee would be given a notice and an opportunity for a hearing by another, unspecified, department or agency of the federal government. Its decision could not be appealed.
The CBO analysis said that while the repayment authority would apply to all levels of VA employees, it likely would be used only rarely, “primarily to recoup payments made to senior VA employees who were determined to have committed a serious violation of the agency’s standards of conduct.”
The authority would apply retroactively, generally up to six years back, it said. “In addition, the authority would only affect current employees of VA; employees who resigned or retired would be exempt from recoupment,” the CBO said.
Other bills sponsored by committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) affecting VA would limit performance awards to senior executives, increase protections for whistleblowers, and require discipline of officials who retaliate against them. Those provisions, along with language enacted last year limiting appeal rights of senior executives at the VA, are seem as a potential roadmap for similar changes at other agencies.