As Vets Await Checks, VA Workers Get Bonuses
Friday, August 21, 2009
Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.
In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.
The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.
The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.
Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.
The details on the alleged improprieties were in two IG reports issued this week. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the agency was extremely concerned about the IG's findings and would pursue a thorough review.
"VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate correction action for those who violate VA policy," Roberts said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
On Friday, Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said if the allegations are found to be true, individuals involved should lose their jobs, and legal action should be taken.
"America's veterans served their nation honorably and with no expectations of reward," Davis said in an e-mail. "It should not be too much to ask for that same level of commitment from government employees, too."...
There is more, much more, and you can read that here.
Nobody has to look very far to hear stories of our veterans being put through the bureaucratic wringer that passes for the Veterans Administration. From this article alone, and the stories I have heard firsthand, seems to me that it is long beyond time for a house cleaning throughout all of this government agency.
It is not good enough for these employees to rake in such big bucks, while our veterans have to fight for every cent. Our veterans have more than earned such meagre token as the pension they receive. To see things like this fraud going on is a disgrace. If the VA was as vigilant about their employee "bonuses" as they are when they scrimp for our veterans, there just might be a larger portion of VA funds for our veterans.
Our veterans deserve better. NOW!