A total of $2.7 million in performance bonus money was paid to nearly 80 percent of senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs last year, despite widespread hospital delays and even disease outbreaks.
More than 350 executives earned a bonus last year for exceeding expectations, assistant VA secretary Gina Farrisee confirmed to a congressional committee Friday.
Sharon Helman, the head of the Phoenix VA medical center, received a $8,500 bonus last year. Helman is currently on paid leave after the VA was accused of fraudulent record-keeping in order to cover up fatal waiting periods.
Senior managers received extra compensation for review ratings of "outstanding" or "exceeds fully successful.” All 470 executives were rated “fully successful,” according to CNN.
Panel chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., cited numerous facilities with problems receiving bonus money.
The director of a Dayton, Ohio, medical center received a bonus in excess of $10,000 despite an investigation of veterans getting exposed to hepatitis B and C at the facility.
A regional director in Pittsburgh received a $63,000 bonus despite a legionella outbreak that resulted in six patient deaths.
"To the average American, $63,000 is considered to be a competitive annual salary, not a bonus," Miller said.
"If we knew what we knew today at that time, it is unlikely that their performance would have reflected what it reflected at the time the reports were written," Farrisee told the panel.
"[But] you cannot go back and change a rating once it has been issued to an employee as the final rating,” she said.
She agreed with Miller that the bonus plan needs to be changed.