[Rushtalk] VA Reform Bill Preserves Hefty Bonuses for Execs

Carl Spitzer lynux at keepandbeararms.com
Sat Sep 6 19:39:03 MDT 2014

Proof Reagan was right govt is the solution.

VA Reform Bill Preserves Hefty Bonuses for Execs

Stars and Stripes | Aug 06, 2014 | by Travis J. Tritten 
WASHINGTON -- Despite public outrage over dysfunctional and dangerously
run hospitals, a landmark VA reform bill set to be signed Thursday by
President Barack Obama will retain some department perks: Hefty bonuses
for executives and other employees.

The bill includes a compromise by House and Senate lawmakers allowing
the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue handing out up to $360
million in employee performance awards each year as it attempts to
overhaul its health care system and ease chronically long patient wait

Obama has announced he will sign the legislation Thursday during a
ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., after overwhelming votes of support in
Congress. It will begin the most comprehensive VA reform in decades by
expanding access to private care, hiring more medical staff, and
streamlining how executives are fired.

The cap on employee performance awards, which totaled $278 million
across the department in 2013, was a product of fractious House and
Senate negotiations in late July.

House lawmakers led by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the
chamber's Veterans Affairs Committee, wanted to completely eliminate VA
bonuses due to gross mismanagement, according to committee staff.

In one case, the VA awarded a nearly $63,000 bonus to a Pittsburgh
hospital administrator after an investigation in April found his
facility failed to prevent a deadly outbreak of legionnaires disease
among veterans.

The committee reported in June that about 65 percent of the department's
senior executives received bonuses specifically for high performance --
ranging between about $7,000 and $12,000 -- and all were given fully
successful performance reviews during last year, even as staff across
the country used secret lists to hide the fact hundreds of thousands of
vets wait weeks or months for treatment.

Until recently, the VA awarded an average of $400 million per year in
total bonuses but began reducing the payments over the last two fiscal
years due to congressional scrutiny, committee staff said.

Miller called the VA system of awards "scandalous, even criminal."

But the Senate opposed the elimination of bonuses when Congress called a
conference committee in June to hammer out a compromise bill to fix the

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs
Committee, contended the VA was essentially good at providing health
care once veterans got into the system and pushed for a vast expansion
of medical staff and facilities.

The VA's head of human resources testified in June that bonuses are part
of the expected compensation of managers including doctors, and are key
to attracting the "best and brightest leaders."

After four weeks of fruitless negotiations, the House and Senate
conference committee threatened to crumble due to concerns about the
overall cost of the bill. Miller and Sanders agreed to come to the table
for a final round of emergency talks aimed at striking a middle ground
between spending that ranged from $10 billion to $25 billion.

The final $16.3 billion compromise was released days later and included
$5 billion to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff for the
VA health care system.

Also, Sanders had successfully pushed to preserve performance awards for
VA employees with the $360 million annual limit, a "more modest cap
spread out over a longer period of time," his staff said.

The House would have been unable to reach an agreement with the Senate
without the cap, according to House Veterans Affairs Committee staff.

In a final joint statement, lawmakers said the VA should ensure annual
performance bonuses are not disproportionately spent on upper

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