Kirkpatrick statement and questions for Veterans' Affairs hearing on executive bonuses
U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement about today's hearing, "Review of Awarding Bonuses to Senior Executives at the Departent of Veterans Affairs," and submitted 10 questions for the record:
"Bonuses should not be automatic. They should be for VA employees who go above and beyond just doing a job. VA employees who do not work to serve veterans should not only be denied bonuses, they should lose their jobs. Because this system of awarding bonuses to employees is easily subject to manipulation, the VA needs to look at other ways to recruit and retain talent, and ensure that employees who really go above and beyond are rewarded for exceptional performance. For the vast number of VA employees who do come to work every day to serve veterans, we need to look at other ways to recruit and retain them. The VA has a shortage of doctors, nurses and medical staff, and we need to look at other incentives beyond bonuses that could be offered to ensure that our VA medical facilities remain fully staffed and able to provide high-quality and timely care."
Kirkpatrick's Questions for the Record:
- VA officials were on notice that “gaming strategies” were being used to misreport patient wait times at VA medical facilities based on the April 26, 2010 “Inappropriate Scheduling Practices” memo that went to all network directors. Which reviewing officials signed off on SES performance appraisals for those SESs responsible for VA medical facilities where manipulation of patient wait time data and unauthorized scheduling practices were found to have taken place?
- Did any reviewing officials sign off on performance appraisals recommending bonuses for SES employees whose facilities were under investigation by the IG?
- Who were the officials on the Performance Review Committees who signed off on performance appraisals and recommended bonuses for these SESs to the Performance Review Board for approval? Who were the officials on the Performance Review Board who recommended bonuses for these SESs to the VA Secretary?
- Will the VA hold network and medical center leaders who received bonuses accountable in VISNs and medical facilities where the audit found that appointment wait time data was being manipulated and appointment scheduling “gaming strategies” were being used?
- Why was performance pay awarded to providers who had action taken against them related to clinical performance? These were providers that failed to competently read mammograms and other complex medical images, providers that were practicing without a license and providers leaving residents unsupervised during surgery. Why did the VA believe these providers deserved performance pay for non-performance? Is this because performance pay was automatically awarded to every employee?
- How can the VA hold employees accountable if bonuses and performance pay are awarded automatically?
- There is a shortage of doctors, nurses and medical staff in the VA. What other incentives could the VA use to recruit and retain healthcare providers beyond bonuses and performance pay? We know that the VA loses healthcare providers to the DoD. Why hasn’t the VA considered increasing the base salary of VA health care employees so that they receive comparable pay? Has the VA considered offering other incentives such as student loan repayment, or increased pay for VA providers willing to work in rural and underserved areas? What additional professional opportunities could the VA offer its healthcare providers to recruit and retain those who are dedicated to serving veterans?
- Why is the purpose of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) performance pay policy (to improve health outcomes and quality) not articulated in the VHA’s performance pay policy?
- Since network and medical center leadership were granted the discretion to set goals that providers must achieve to receive performance pay, why did the VHA fail to review these goals to ensure that performance pay was linked to provider performance goals?
- How will the VA ensure that only employees who perform exceptional work are rewarded in the future?