Remember when then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced in May 2014 that bonuses would be canceled in light of the systemic fraud involving wait lists at numerous VA facilities? What Shinseki failed to mention was that the cancellation only impacted a small number of VA officials. USA Today reports that the Veterans Administration paid out more than $142 million in bonuses for 2014, despite the fact that veterans are waiting longer than ever for care:
The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans’ health care and other issues racked the agency.
Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year. They received $300 to $900 each. Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans – one of whom died.
The VA also rewarded executives who managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget. They took home $4,000 to $8,000 each. And in St. Cloud, Minn., where an internal investigation report last year outlined mismanagement that led to mass resignations of health care providers, the chief of staff cited by investigators received a performance bonus of almost $4,000.
So what happened to the Shinseki order?
But he only curtailed them for a sliver of VA executives — those in senior levels of the Veterans Health Administration, which oversees health care.
The agency has continued to pay performance-based bonuses to nearly half of agency employees, including in health administration, according to data provided to USA TODAY by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. In all, some 156,000 executives, managers and employees received them for 2014 performance.
The VA paid bonuses for “the biggest construction failure in VA history,” Denver7 reported last night. Despite poor performance on a massive construction project and being “hopelessly over budget,” managers got over $100,000 in performance bonuses:
How many primary-care physicians might have been hired with $142 million? A thousand would probably be a reasonable guess, perhaps enough to start reducing the wait times for veterans in a single-payer system many of them cannot escape. Instead, the money went to the incompetents and worse who have wasted resources and gamed the system at the expense of veterans — and for some, at the cost of their lives.
Remember when Hillary Clinton claimed this scandal was just a right-wing conspiracy to make the VA look bad? AP reporter Julie Pace does, and she thinks Hillary will pay for this for rest of her campaign (via Free Beacon):
“The Hillary Clinton comment, sometimes when you do this job you hear a candidate say something and you just know that that is something that is going to trail her through Election Day next year if she is the eventual Democratic nominee,” Pace said on Special Report with Bret Baier. …
“You look at the numbers, and I think is really hard to argue that this isn’t a systemic widespread problem,” Pace said.
She certainly deserves to have this stick to her, but let’s not allow the Obama administration off the hook just yet. What happened to the bonus cancellations? Shouldn’t Barack Obama have to answer for this in the near term, even more than Hillary in the long term?