Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) today offered an amendment to cut the pay of senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs if they fail to reduce the backlog in veterans' disability claims.
Currently, the average claim takes 292 days to process with some regional offices reporting delays of over 450 days. The latest figures published by the VA shows there are 865,265 claims pending review with nearly 70 percent waiting for more than 125 days.
"The pace with which the VA is examining claims is unacceptable and must be fixed," said Kingston. "When a soldier puts his life on the line for this country, he shouldn't be left waiting a year for help when he gets home. We have invested more than $500 million in this benefit management system over the last four years and the problem has only gotten worse. If the leadership at the VA cannot reduce the backlog, they should see their pay cut."
Kingston's amendment would cut the pay of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and any Under- or Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs by 25 percent if the percentage of disability claims 125 days old is not less than 40 percent. The amendment would not impact the pay of claims processors who are working to reduce the backlog.
The approach is based off of private sector examples where senior leadership sees their pay reduced for performance failures. Companies like Chevron, Macy's, United Airlines, JC Penny, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley have all employed the practice.
As introduced, the bill contains $2.455 billion for Veterans Benefit Administration which is nearly $300 million more than last year. It also contains $2.68 billion for Information Technology Systems, and increase of nearly $360 million.
"Our committee has worked closely with the VA to address this issue but it's time for results,"Kingston said. "We have provided targeted funding increases and strengthened oversight and reporting requirements. That these programs are seeing additional investment when most others are seeing their budgets cut shows our commitment to getting our veterans the care they deserve."
Kingston's amendment was approved by voice vote.