Donnelly Supports Freezing Bonuses
Congressman Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced that he would sign on to legislation to be introduced by John Hall, D-N.Y., that would freeze all fiscal year 2007 bonuses set to be paid to senior level Veterans Affairs Department officials until the VA has reduced its backlog of benefit cases to fewer than 100,000 claims.
"As veterans are waiting longer and longer for benefits they desperately need, the cash-strapped VA saw it appropriate to reward poor performance with budget-busting bonuses," Donnelly said. "The reports of top officials at the VA getting the most lucrative performance bonuses in government when there is a backlog of over 600,000 benefits cases shows gross mismanagement and a real lack of priorities. Our veterans need care, and I'm going to do what I can to make sure they get it in a timely fashion befitting their service to their country."
Hall's legislation comes in light of revelations last week that senior officials received more than $3.8 million in bonuses in 2006. As recently as 2006, the VA faced a shortfall of $1 billion, which jeopardized veterans' health care.
The Associated Press also reported that the annual bonuses to senior VA officials, which averaged more than $16,000 for 2006, are the highest in government.
One of the officials to receive a top bonus of $33,000 was the deputy undersecretary for benefits, who helps manage a disability claim system with a backlog of more than 600,000 cases and average delays of 177 days.
The VA's fiscal year 2007 bonuses are currently set to be paid in September of this year.
The legislation Hall is introducing would prevent the payment of these bonuses until the VA reduces the claims backlog to fewer than 100,000 cases.
"The leadership of the VA should not get performance bonuses' unless and until they make the disability claims process perform better," Donnelly said. "It's that simple."