Daily Revolt

May 03, 2007

Senior VA Officials Get big Bonuses

It makes sense with an administration that prides itself on thumbing it's nose at the public. People should be losing their jobs not getting bonuses:
Months after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that put veterans' health care in peril, Veterans Affairs officials involved in the foul-up got hefty bonuses ranging up to $33,000.

The list of bonuses to senior career officials at the Veterans Affairs Department in 2006, obtained by The Associated Press, documents a generous package of more than $3.8 million in payments by a financially strapped agency straining to help care for thousands of injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why didn't Congress uncover this outrage, and when will there be hearings. This could be the most shocking scandal of all in this shocking and scandalous administration:
The bonuses were awarded even after government investigators had determined the VA repeatedly miscalculated — if not deliberately misled taxpayers — with questionable methods used to justify Bush administration cuts to health care amid a burgeoning Iraq war.

Annual bonuses to senior VA officials now average more than $16,000 — the most lucrative in government.

Smacks of cronyism:
Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said the payments pointed to an improper "entitlement for the most centrally placed or well-connected staff."

Seeking an explanation from Secretary Jim Nicholson, Akaka also asked the department to outline steps to address disparities in which Washington-based senior officials got higher payments than their counterparts elsewhere.

Rewarded for incompetence:
Also receiving $33,000 was Ronald Aument, the deputy undersecretary for benefits, who helps oversee the strained and backlogged claims system that Nicholson now says is unacceptable.

There is no money to give in bonuses, much less to help those who have truly served their country:
In July 2005, the VA stunned Congress by suddenly announcing it faced a $1 billion shortfall after failing to take into account the additional cost of caring for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The admission, months after the department insisted it was operating within its means and did not need additional money, drew harsh criticism from both parties and some calls for Nicholson's resignation.

This White House is all about loyalty to supporters not commitment to public service:
According to the White House Office of Personnel Management, roughly three of every four senior officials at the VA have received some kind of bonus each year. In recent years, the payment amount has steadily increased from being one of the lowest in government — $8,120 in 2002 — to the most generous — $16,713 in 2005.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the VA bonuses appeared to reflect a trend in government where performance bonuses were increasingly used to reward loyal associates and longtime employees.

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