Lawmakers Highlight Poor-Performing VA Execs Awarded Bonuses

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Veterans Affairs Department must now deal with a new online source of criticism, an “accountability watch” website launched late last month by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Citing a continued backlog of compensation claims and inappropriate executive bonuses, panel Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R- Fla., said the site is “dedicated to showing America’s veterans and American taxpayers how the department’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability may actually be encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it.”

Miller called for the disciplining or firing of VA executives who receive glowing performance reviews and extra pay but “fail” in managing such problems as preventable veteran deaths, infectious disease outbreaks, and delays in benefits and facility construction.

“The vast majority of the department’s more than 300,000 employees are dedicated and hard-working,” he said in a statement. “They deserve better than to have the reputation of their organization dragged through the mud by a bunch of executives who are too busy patting themselves on the back to take responsibility for their own incompetence. By educating America’s veterans and American taxpayers about VA's long and well-documented history of rewarding failure, we hope to enlist their help in our quest to end the culture of complacency that is contributing to many of the department’s most serious problems.”

The site offers links to news accounts that name VA executives involved in management and performance controversies.

VA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Reactions to the site have been generally positive. Joe Davis, director of public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Government Executive, “One of the most difficult things to do in any large organization is to ensure its employees -- both rank and file and supervisors -- are held accountable for their performance. As long as the committee’s write-ups are factual, one can only hope that the added attention will better benefit all veterans by increasing employee productivity and accountability. Working for the federal government -- especially the Department of Veterans Affairs -- should be seen as a privilege, not a right.”

Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, called the site “terrific” and praised investigators on the House committee. “This is just the latest example of the committee’s dedication to holding the VA accountable to ensure our veterans get the care they deserve,” she said.

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