Bonuses suspended for senior execs at Atlanta VA

by: Gracie Bonds Staples Updated:

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Bonuses for some local senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been deferred pending further review, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Saturday.

A former top administrator at the Atlanta VA Medical Center received performance bonuses over a four-year span as internal audits revealed lengthy wait times for mental health care and mismanagement that led to three deaths.

In a statement released Saturday, officials said that senior executives are committed to providing the quality healthcare and benefits veterans have earned and deserve. Performance awards take into account both individual and overall organizational performance goals.

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 bonuses 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.

“Based on organizational performance goals, senior executives in the Veterans Benefits Administration will not receive performance awards for fiscal year 2012, Northstar said. “Instead, the funds will be reinvested to accelerate elimination of the backlog.”

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 on Monday for an oversight visit.

Miller cheered the partial end of the bonuses last week and called for disciplinary action against Atlanta VA executives.