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Watchdog: VA erroneously paid out big bonuses to feds, under scrutiny

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has paid out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in bonuses to executives, according to a federal watchdog report.

The VA Inspector General released a report detailing that the VA “erroneously” paid out about $11 million in bonuses to executives that were later found to be ineligible for those bonuses.

The bonuses totaled as much as $100,000 for just one federal employee.

Lawmakers blasted the VA for the mistake.

“During oversight visits across the country, we have consistently heard from VA police officers, medical supply technicians, housekeepers, and other VA staff about the need for VA to better retain quality employees,” House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., said in a statement. “Instead of using all of the critical skill incentives to do this, VA inappropriately used the money to line the pockets of VA executives to the detriment of VA’s workforce and the veterans they serve.”

Federal watchdogs reported last year that the VA paid out $9.7 million in bonuses. After that report, the VA pledged to cancel the bonuses.

This latest report shows the number was bigger than previously thought. The IG formally recommended the VA appoint officials to review the bonus process and investigate if there were any conflicts of interest.

The IG recommended that the VA, in “consultation with the Office of General Counsel’s Ethics Specialty Team, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or his designee takes appropriate action to determine whether individuals involved in the decision-making process for awarding CSIs had any actual or apparent conflicts of interest and develop a process to ensure all decision-makers are free from conflicts when awarding future incentives.”

Bost went on to say this was not a mistake but a purposeful decision.

“The over $10 million dollars in overpayments to VA central office employees were not some type of administrative mistake – that’s a serious problem for the second largest agency in the federal government – and we’re going to get to the bottom of it come hell or high water,” he continued.

The VA has been on a hiring spree of late. In the 2022 PACT Act, lawmakers included a provision for VA bonuses to help retain talent at the agency, which has been under fire for years for a myriad of issues.

Recently, for example, the agency came under scrutiny for allowing health care providers disqualified for safety reasons to continue treating veterans.