Friday, August 21, 2009

Wire: As Vets Await Checks, VA Workers Get $24 Million Bonuses

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that 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.

The Associated Press said, 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.

AP noted the following details:
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.
AP said 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.

The VA has faced criticism before in its awarding of bonuses. In 2007, AP reported that the then-VA secretary had approved a generous package of more than $3.8 million in bonus payments in 2006, citing a need to retain longtime VA executives.

See links below for details.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Related Documents: Reports from VA Inspector General:

As vets await checks, VA workers get $24M bonuses

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