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Senate follows House with bill to reclaim VA bonuses

The U.S. Senate side of the Capitol.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senators on Tuesday filed a bill that would allow the VA secretary to recoup bonuses paid to employees involved in manipulating patient wait-time records.

The measure is being introduced just one day after legislation passed a House vote that would allow the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs the ability to take back bonus money of senior executives for their role in manipulating wait times or other wrongdoing.

The bill would require the repayment of any bonus given out in 2011 or after to those found responsible for the largest scandal in VA history. It is sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

The two bills have reinvigorated debate over reforming the VA and punishing those responsible for doctoring patient appointment data to mask long wait times at hospitals and clinics across the country.

“VA personnel should be accountable for their actions — otherwise the current culture of manipulation will remain,” Moran said in a released statement. “This legislation will help make certain that those who put veterans’ lives at risk will be held responsible and return bonuses they unjustly collected.”

Federal audits found last year that the VA used shorter patient wait times as a measure to award employee bonuses, meaning those who masked delays in veteran health care stood to gain by getting more pay. About 70 percent of VA facilities across the country practiced some form of data manipulation, department inspector general audits found.

The Senate bill gives the VA secretary the power to reclaim the bonus payments from employees who directly hid the delays — and from managers who reasonably should have known their subordinates were guilty of the wrongdoing, according to Moran.

The House passed its bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., Monday night through an untallied voice vote. No lawmakers spoke out against it.

tritten.travis@stripes.com
Twitter: @Travis_Tritten

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