VA Execs Will Leave if Congress Bans Bonuses, Group Says

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has introduced a bill that would place a five-year moratorium on all bonuses for senior executives at the VA, saving the federal government $18 million. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has introduced a bill that would place a five-year moratorium on all bonuses for senior executives at the VA, saving the federal government $18 million. Keith Srakocic/AP

Proposals to ban performance bonuses for senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department are unwarranted and damaging to VA’s mission, according to a professional association representing top federal managers.

The Senior Executives Association wrote a letter to Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Mike Michaud, D-Maine, the chairman and ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to condemn a recent push to limit or altogether block performance awards to Senior Executive Service and equivalent grade employees at VA.

“There seems to be a misperception that federal career senior executives are collecting Wall Street salaries and bonuses while accomplishing little of value,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro wrote in the letter. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Miller has introduced a bill -- the Putting Veterans Funding First Act -- that would place a five-year moratorium on all bonuses for senior executives at the VA, saving the federal government $18 million. VA has come under increased pressure after a Government Accountability Office audit found inadequate oversight led to suspended and unlicensed doctors receiving significant bonuses. Miller held a hearing Monday to further examine VA’s bonus program.

Bonosaro emphasized the bonuses are part of SES employees’ pay structure, and are awarded only after a “rigorous review of executives’ achievements against both individual and organizational performance goals.”

“In those very infrequent instances when a career executive abuses his or her position or fails to meet established performance requirements, their agency can and should take appropriate corrective and/or disciplinary action,” Bonosaro wrote. “However, all indications suggest that the federal career executive corps is an extremely hard-working, dedicated and effective group of senior managers who work to maintain the public trust.”

She added threats to ban bonuses  are “counter-productive and run the risk of detracting from mission accomplishment and driving high performing VA executives to retire or seek more rewarding positions in other parts of the government or the private sector.”

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