Bonuses for some local senior executives at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have been deferred pending further review, the department said Saturday.
An audit published last month by the VA’s Inspector General blamed mismanagement at the Atlanta VA for three deaths of mental health patients and examined long waiting lists for mental health services. As those problems were ongoing, top executives — including former director James A. Clark — were getting annual performance bonuses. Clark pulled in $65,000 in bonuses over a four-year span, which the VA said was due in part to his pitching in as acting Southeast Network Director.
In its Saturday statement, the VA said that senior executives are committed to providing the quality health care and benefits veterans have earned and deserve. Performance awards take into account both individual and overall organizational performance goals, the agency said.
The Atlanta VA medical center in Decatur is one of the facilities under review, said Jan Northstar, regional spokeswoman for the agency. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the department made significant program management improvements to ensure the VA executive performance program is consistent with law and regulation. In 2009, the agency distributed performance awards totaling $3.3 million. In 2012, executive performance awards totaled $2.3 million.
The VA also announced late last week that senior executives at the Veterans Benefits Administration would not receive performance awards for the 2012 fiscal year, and the money would be used instead to help attack the lengthy backlog of benefit claims. Nationwide, 610,000 benefit claims have been pending for more than 125 days, according to VA data.
U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., along with members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, plan to tour the Atlanta facility Monday for an oversight visit.
Miller cheered the partial end of the bonuses last week and called for disciplinary action against Atlanta VA executives.