House Approves Bill to Temporarily Ban Senior Exec Bonuses at VA

Brian A Jackson/

The House unanimously passed a bill Monday that would ban bonuses for senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department for the next five years.

The provision was included in a larger bill to require public universities to charge veterans attending their schools in-state tuition rates. The House previously approved a measure that would reduce performance awards at the agency for all employees by 14 percent, or $275 million. The Senate has not voted on that bill yet.

The new legislation would eliminate performance awards for members of the Senior Executive Service through 2018, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would save $18 million. The provision, originally introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., as part of another bill, comes after hearings on VA’s bonus program and a Government Accountability Office report that found the agency’s suspended and unlicensed doctors received significant bonuses.

Miller said the bill’s passage marked an important step forward to hold VA more accountable, as the department has failed to conduct the review of its performance appraisal system that the committee recommended. The chairman long has argued that no one at the department deserves bonuses while the backlog of veterans benefits claims remains high. Miller even created a website to track VA’s “lack of accountability” in giving out awards.

“Until we have complete confidence that VA is holding executives accountable -- rather than rewarding them -- for mistakes, no one should get a performance bonus,” Miller said. “Period.”

The Senior Executives Association warned Miller not to eliminate the performance awards, as it would drive VA employees out of federal service. SEA said in a letter to the committee that the bonuses are part of the pay structure for SES employees, and are awarded only after a “rigorous review of executives’ achievements against both individual and organizational performance goals.”

SEA’s President Carol Bonosaro wrote in the letter that banning bonuses would be “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.”

The performance awards were created “to encourage excellence in performance by career appointees,” according to federal statute, and are worth between 5 percent and 20 percent of an employee’s basic rate of pay. 

(Image via Brian A Jackson/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.