Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 3, 2015

Troubled Phoenix VA Branch Gave Out $10 Million in Bonuses

Friday’s hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee on bonuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs just got some ammunition in the form of the Arizona Republic‘s story Monday evening that the Phoenix VA Health Care System paid $10 million in bonuses over the last three years, which coincides with when staffers were manipulating patient wait records.

The newspaper got that figure via a Freedom of Information Act request. Overall, 2,150 employees shared in the bonuses.

All bonuses for senior executives have been suspended under the department’s acting secretary, and a House-passed bill would ban them through 2016, following on various recent efforts to ban bonuses. Bonuses at the Veterans Health Administration totaled $109 million the past three years, although the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller, R-Fla., estimates the House bill’s ban on department-wide bonuses and incentives at $400 million in savings annually.

But VA bonuses still might make sense if they’re tied to things like outcomes rather than reduced wait times, per The Daily Beast. And the logic behind incentivizing decreased wait times isn’t necessarily wrong — it’s just that here, it led to bad behavior thanks to human nature, behavioral scientist Fransesca Gino recently argued.

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