Panel votes to ban bonuses at Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House panel voted Wednesday to place a five-year moratorium on bonuses to senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Jeff Miller, Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the legislation was in response to media reports about various executives who received performance bonuses despite significant problems that occurred at the VA during their watch, such as the increase in the number of disability claims pending longer than 125 days.

The VA had already halted bonuses for those executives overseeing disability claims, but Miller’s legislation extends the ban to other divisions within the government’s second-largest department.

The VA did not respond to a request for comment, but has stressed previously that bonuses have been reduced in recent years. In 2009, the department awarded executives $3.3 million in bonuses. Last year, the amount of bonuses fell to $2.3 million. The bonuses go to career professionals and not to political appointees.

The Florida lawmaker’s amendment was part of a larger bill requiring states to charge in-state tuition rates for those veterans using their Post 911 GI Bill benefits. No lawmakers spoke in opposition to the amendment.

“Until we have complete confidence that VA is holding executives accountable rather than rewarding them for their mistakes, no one should get a performance bonus. Period,” Miller said in a prepared statement sent out after the vote.

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