The House of Representatives passed legislation on Monday evening this week that would limit bonuses paid to Veterans Affairs employees in the Senior Executive Service to $2 million in fiscal year 2016.
The bill, known as The Dignified Interment of our Veterans Act of 2015 (H.R. 1338), passed in the House by a vote of 409-0.
The part about bonuses is easy to miss at first, especially in a bill with a name like The Dignified Interment of our Veterans Act of 2015.
The legislation is primarily focused on addressing the thousands of unclaimed veteran remains across the country and directs the VA to conduct a study aimed at identifying the underlying causes that prevent the timely claiming and interring of veteran remains and solicits recommendations for improvement.
However, a more obscure part of the bill listed at the very end is language that sets the limitations on bonuses. The bill reads:
Sec. 3. Limitation on awards and bonuses paid to senior executive employees of Department of Veterans Affairs
Section 705 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–146; 38 U.S.C. 703 note) is amended by striking the period at the end and inserting the following: , of which, during fiscal year 2016, not more than an aggregate amount of $2,000,000 may be paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs who are members of the Senior Executive Service.
USA Today recently reported that the VA paid out $142 million in performance based bonuses to executives and employees even as scandals over health care provided to vets plagued the agency.
With reports like that continuing to circulate, Congress is sure to take notice. In a statement he made last year, House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) attacked the bonus culture in the VA, saying, “It appears as if VA’s performance review system is failing veterans. Instead of using bonuses as an award for outstanding work on behalf of our veterans, cash awards are seen as an entitlement and have become irrelevant to quality work product.”