Nov 12

Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Paid Out $142 Million in Cash Bonuses Immediately Following Deadly Scandal:

The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans’ health care and other issues racked the agency.

The agency paid more than $380,000 in 2013 performance bonuses to top officials at hospitals where veterans faced long delays in receiving treatment, including those under investigation for wait-time manipulation.

In Tomah, Wis., the former chief of staff of the VA medical center there, Dr. David Houlihan — whom veterans nicknamed the “Candy Man” because of his prolific prescribing of narcotics — received a $4,000 bonus in December. That was nine months after an inspector general investigation report concluded he was prescribing alarmingly high amounts of opiates. And it was four months after Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, 35, died of “mixed-drug toxicity” as an inpatient at Tomah after he was prescribed a fatal cocktail of medications, including opiates. The inpatient pharmacist supervisor also received a $1,050 bonus in December. A spokesman for the Tomah VA declined to comment. The VA moved last month to fire Houlihan. A lawyer who represented him did not respond to a message Tuesday seeking comment.

In Augusta, Ga., VA financial manager Jed Fillingim was awarded a $900 performance bonus. He drew scrutiny from Congress last year after news reports revealed he admitted drinking and driving a government truck to a VA meeting in 2010 and a co-worker fell from the truck and was killed. 

– From the excellent USA Today article: Veterans Affairs Pays $142 Million in Bonuses Amid Scandals 

For several months in 2014, one of the biggest stories in America revolved around revelations of incompetence and death at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Specifically, an internal VA investigation admitted at least 23 veterans died while waiting for care, and that 120,000 were being affected by delinquent care. The FBI subsequently launched a criminal probe into the VA, and here’s what the White House had to say about the entire affair:

A summary of the review by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors says the Veterans Health Administration must be restructured and that a “corrosive culture” has hurt morale and affected the timeliness of health care. The review also found that a 14-day standard for scheduling veterans’ medical appointments is unrealistic and that some employees manipulated the wait times so they would appear to be shorter.

So how did the VA respond to its shocking and deadly mismanagement of U.S. veterans’ affairs? By spending $142 million in cash bonuses to its employees, some of whom should have clearly been fired, if not jailed. Thank you U.S. taxpayer.

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans’ health care and other issues racked the agency.

Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year. They received $300 to $900 each. Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans – one of whom died.

The VA also rewarded executives who managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget. They took home $4,000 to $8,000 each. And in St. Cloud, Minn., where an internal investigation report last year outlined mismanagement that led to mass resignations of health care providers, the chief of staff cited by investigators received a performance bonus of almost $4,000.

Yes, you read that right: $1 billion over budget. Somebody got paid…

 In all, some 156,000 executives, managers and employees received them for 2014 performance.

The agency paid more than $380,000 in 2013 performance bonuses to top officials at hospitals where veterans faced long delays in receiving treatment, including those under investigation for wait-time manipulation. “Rewarding failure only breeds more failure,” he said Tuesday. “Until VA leaders learn this important lesson and make a commitment to supporting real accountability at the department, efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail.”

Miller spearheaded – and the House passed – a measure last year that would have eliminated bonuses for VA senior executives for five years. But ultimately the House and Senate compromised on legislation that still allows the VA to hand out up to $360 million annually to executives, managers and employees.

Overall, the agency awarded $276 million in incentives in 2014, including retention and relocation payments, rewards for saving money on travel and coming up with inventive ideas, according to committee data.

The cash bonuses of $142.5 million were tied to performance reviews.

Now here are some of the more egregious examples of bonus payments highlighted by USA Today:

Tomah, Wis., the former chief of staff of the VA medical center there, Dr. David Houlihan — whom veterans nicknamed the “Candy Man” because of his prolific prescribing of narcotics — received a $4,000 bonus in December. That was nine months after an inspector general investigation report concluded he was prescribing alarmingly high amounts of opiates.  And it was four months after Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, 35, died of “mixed-drug toxicity” as an inpatient at Tomah after he was prescribed a fatal cocktail of medications, including opiates. The inpatient pharmacist supervisor also received a $1,050 bonus in December. A spokesman for the Tomah VA declined to comment. The VA moved last month to fire Houlihan. A lawyer who represented him did not respond to a message Tuesday seeking comment

In Augusta, Ga., VA financial manager Jed Fillingim was awarded a $900 performance bonus. He drew scrutiny from Congress last year after news reports revealed he admitted drinking and driving a government truck to a VA meeting in 2010 and a co-worker fell from the truck and was killed.  Fillingim resigned from the VA after the incident but was rehired in March 2011, WRC-TV reported. A spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Augusta, Brian Rothwell, said Fillingim is not employed there.

In St. Paul, Minn., VA benefits office director Kimberly Graves received a bonus of $8,697 for 2014 performance. A VA inspector general report issued in September this year concluded Graves improperly used her authority to engineer a switch into her current post in October 2014. IG investigators concluded she also improperly received an additional $129,000 related to the move. Graves pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer questions at a House VA Committee hearing last week.

Of course, this is just the latest example of government bureaucrats not only being “above the law,” but actually being rewarded for criminal behavior. The incentive structure throughout government, Wall Street, and big business generally is that “crime pays,” which is exactly why we’re seeing more and more of it. It will only get worse, until we grow up as a culture and demand accountability.

Until then…

Banana-Republic

For related articles, see:

Two-Tiered Justice: How DEA Agents Commit Egregious Acts with Zero Accountability

How the EPA Spent $92.5 Million of Taxpayer Funds on High-End Furniture

DEA Agents Caught Having Drug Cartel Funded Prostitute Sex Parties Received Slap on the Wrist; None Fired

DEA Agents Wrongly Jailed Student for 5 Days Without Food or Water Until He Had to Drink Own Urine; Nobody Fired

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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