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Federal Employees Union Raps VA Exec Bonuses

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2011

The American Federation of Government Employees on Monday rapped the Department of Veterans Affairs for continuing to pay "exorbitant bonuses" to managers in VA hospitals and benefits offices while medical staff struggle to meet growing demand.

"The idea that frontline employees have to stretch resources with limited staff, while executives continue to receive large bonuses is mindboggling," Alma Lee, president of AFGE's National Veterans Affairs Council, which represents 160,000 employees in the VA, said in a media release. "If the VA is serious about recruiting and retaining highly trained and capable staff, it should reinvest in frontline staff, not top level bureaucracy."

The VA did not return telephone calls on Monday afternoon from HealthLeaders Media.

AFGE said in a media release that the VA was "rightly reprimanded" by Congress two years ago when media reports exposed that it was paying bonuses to executives, despite mounting claims backlogs, reports of poor patient care and suspicious deaths in VA hospitals. "However, despite the Congressional reproach, the agency has continued to shower executives with lavish bonuses.

According to the union, these bonuses, when coupled with the already high salaries of medical and benefits executives, represent a misguided approach to compensation lacking fairness and transparency," AFGE said.

The union said that media reports from 2007 showed that the VA performance review boards, which make determinations about who receives bonuses, were stacked with the same executives who were scheduled to receive the incentive payments. These members had input on bonus recommendations involving themselves, fellow members and spouses that made questionable performance claims and neglected agency problems.

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