Rep. Mitchell Vows Hearings on Lucrative Bonuses to Top VA Officials


For Immediate Release
May 3, 2007
CONTACT:  Seth Scott
d: (202) 226-8715
c: (202) 731-7212


Top VA Officials Rewarded with ‘Most Lucrative’ Bonuses in Government Despite Allegation They May Have ‘Deliberately Misled’ Public About Veterans Care Cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell today said he will hold Congressional hearings to examine reports that top Department of Veterans Affairs officials were paid the “most lucrative” bonuses in government at the same time they may have “deliberately misled taxpayers” in an effort “to justify Bush administration cuts to health care amid a burgeoning Iraq war.” [Source: Associated Press, May 3, 2007]

“These reports point to an apparent gross injustice at the VA that we have a responsibility to investigate,” said Mitchell. “No government official should ever be rewarded for misleading taxpayers, and the VA should not be handing out the most lucrative bonuses in government as veterans are waiting months and months to see a doctor. These are misplaced priorities.”

Mitchell is the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The Associated Press reported, “Months after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that put veterans’ health care in peril, Veterans Affairs officials involved in the foul-up got hefty bonuses ranging up to $33,000…. Among those receiving payments were a deputy assistant secretary and several regional directors who crafted the VA’s flawed budget for 2005 based on misleading accounting. They received performance payments up to $33,000 each, a figure equal to about 20 percent of their annual salaries.” [Source: Associated Press, May 3, 2007]

Last September, the Government Accountability Office “determined the VA had used misleading accounting methods and claimed false savings of more than $1.3 billion, apparently because President Bush was not willing, at the time, to ask Congress for more money.” [Source: Associated Press, May 3, 2007]

According to the General Accounting Office, “Unrealistic assumptions, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA’s budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding in fiscal years 2005 and 2006…. Furthermore, insufficient data in VA’s initial budget projections contributed to the additional funding requests. For example, VA underestimated the cost of serving veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan ….” [Source: General Accounting Office report, September 2006]

The bonuses were issued at a time of serious need for veterans. For example, the VA estimated that veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, wait an average of 90 days for a follow-up appointment. Last month, members of Mitchell’s Veterans’ Advisory Council explained that long wait times at VA facilities are one of most significant problems at VA facilities. [Source: General Accounting Office report, September 2004; Arizona]

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