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Some VA bonuses canceled due to claims backlog

By Greg Seaby, CNN
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Wed May 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Executives won't get performance bonuses because of claims backlog
  • Funds will go back into eliminating backlog, VA spokesman said
  • Lawmakers have become increasingly critical of VA's backlog

Washington (CNN) -- Senior career executives of the U.S. agency responsible for processing key veterans benefits will not receive performance bonuses this year following congressional complaints that the government has been too slow to process disability claims.

Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the Veterans Administration, said the Veterans Benefits Administration has eliminated bonuses to ensure executives responsible for a backlog of claims are not rewarded since performance goals were not achieved.

"Instead, the funds will be reinvested to accelerate elimination of the backlog. We remain confident that VBA senior executives are dedicated to our nation's veterans, and they will continue to lead our drive toward VA's goal: eliminating the claims backlog in 2015," Taylor said.

The total bonus payout for career VA executives in fiscal year 2012 was $2.3 million, funds that will now be used to eliminate the backlog, according to an agency official with knowledge of the budget. The benefits administration total was not broken out.

Political appointees, like Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, do not receive bonuses.

The benefits administration processes disability, pension and other claims for the larger agency.

The VA announced an initiative last week aimed at expediting decisions for veterans who have waited one year or longer for compensation claims.

"Too many veterans wait too long for decisions on their compensation claims, and that has never been acceptable. That's why VA has implemented an aggressive plan that will eliminate the decades-long compensation claims backlog in 2015," Taylor said.

Lawmakers have been increasingly critical of the VA and are applauding the move to cut performance awards.

"VA employees and managers who fail in their jobs shouldn't receive bonuses -- they should be disciplined or fired," Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

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