Senators Demand Return of $10.8 Million in ‘Unjustified’ Bonuses Handed to VA Senior Executives

Payments ranged from nearly $39,000 to over $100,000 each, the report found.

A group of Republican senators is calling for nearly $11 million in “unjustified” bonuses paid to senior executives within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be recouped and for those responsible for distributing them to be fired.

The group, led by Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough on May 22 in which they said they are “deeply concerned about mismanagement and accountability failures” within the department.

In their letter, the lawmakers pointed to a recent report by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), which found that the VA erroneously awarded millions of dollars in critical skill incentive (CSI) payments to senior executives at its central office. The money was meant to be spent on retaining much-needed skilled workers.

That report, published on May 9, has brought to light the “improper allocation of CSIs to senior executives within the VA,” and “revealed a consistent disregard for statutory requirements and VA policies, resulting in the unjustified distribution of bonuses to executives,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

“This blatant misuse of taxpayer funds is not just a breach of public trust but also a disservice to the courageous men and women who have selflessly served our nation,” they continued.

According to the report by the VA OIG, between August 2023 and early September 2023, the CSIs, totaling approximately $10.8 million, were handed out to 182 senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Central Office (VACO).

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The payments ranged from nearly $39,000 to over $100,000 each, the report found.

However, the bonuses were part of the $117 million Critical Skill Incentive Payments program authorized by Congress two years ago as part of efforts to retain employees in critically understaffed jobs.

‘These Individuals Must Be Held Accountable’

More specifically, the payments were meant to be given to an employee who “possesses a high-demand skill or skill that is at a shortage” to help the VA meet a projected increase in staffing requirements.

Mr. McDonough rescinded the payments in September 2023 after learning of the mistakes and notified Congress before requesting the OIG review the matter.

The VA also began efforts to recoup the payments made to the executives.

However, the lawmakers in their letter to Mr. McDonough called on the VA to immediately recoup the bonuses and dismiss Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal, Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs, and Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher along with “any other executives implicated in the mismanagement of CSIs.”

“Failure to take decisive action in response to these revelations will undermine public confidence in the VA and the trust of those who have sacrificed so much for our country,” they wrote. “Congress passed the PACT Act to expand access to VA health care and benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances, not pad the pockets of career bureaucrats, particularly during a time when a majority of them were working remotely.”

“The brazen entitlement by senior executives appointed by this Administration shows a clear lack of judgment and selfishness and these individuals must be held accountable,” they concluded.

Mr. Tuberville and Ms. Blackburn were joined by senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in signing the letter.

The Epoch Times has contacted a VA spokesperson for further comment.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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