WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sponsored bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would rescind bonuses paid to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who were involved in the manipulation of electronic waitlists. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill on Monday.
“VA personnel should be accountable for their actions – otherwise the current culture of manipulation will remain,” Sen. Moran said. “This legislation will help make certain that those who put veterans’ lives at risk will be held responsible and return bonuses they unjustly collected. I believe Kansas VA medical centers and CBOCs are filled with good, hard-working people who want to care for veterans by providing quality health care. But revelations of failures within the VA system demonstrate what can happen when bureaucracy gets in the way of an organization’s mission.”
The VA used wait-time metrics as a factor in determining employee bonuses, which incentivized some VA employees to maximize their bonus payments by using secret waitlists to artificially inflate compliance data. According to one report, employees at the Phoenix VA hospital received approximately $10 million in bonuses since 2011, while simultaneously using secret waitlists to hide delays in patients receiving care. In addition, the VA paid out $278 million in bonuses in 2013, millions of which went to employees in facilities being investigated for wait list manipulations.
The bill directs the VA Secretary to require employees who received bonuses in 2011 or later to repay those bonuses if they were involved in the deliberate manipulation of electronic wait lists. The employees’ superiors are also required to pay back bonuses if they knew, or reasonably should have known, of their subordinates’ purposeful omission of the names of veterans from electronic waitlists. The bill requires the VA Secretary to identify these VA employees through reports issued by the department’s Inspector General.