Categorized | Economy

VA Paid Incompetent, Missing Doctors Bonuses

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid bonuses to many of its doctors even though they had been disciplined for incompetent performance and negligent patient care, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In its investigation, the GAO found that annual performance bonuses ranging from $7,500 to $11,189 were paid to VA doctors who had been disciplined for: practicing medicine with an expired license, failing to read mammograms and x-rays competently, leaving the operating room during surgery, refusing to see emergency room patients, failing to be available for assigned hospital duties, and behavior that created an “atmosphere of fear and poor morale” in the emergency room.

At the four VA hospitals examined by the GAO, every medical professional eligible for a performance bonus got one, whether they had been disciplined for poor performance or not.

The GAO criticized the VA for a lack of a policy clearly defining what constitutes exceptional performance and how disciplinary actions affect the award of incentive bonuses.

“VHA (Veterans Health Administration) does not provide adequate oversight to ensure that its medical centers are in compliance and remain in compliance with performance pay and award requirements,” wrote the GAO.

During fiscal year 2011, about 18,000 (20%) of the 22,500 doctors and dentists employed by the Veterans Health Administration were awarded performance bonus, at a cost to taxpayers of about $150 million.

In response to the GAO’s report, the VA stated that it was working on policy changes it says will “clearly articulate the purpose or performance pay under VA’s physician and dentist pay system.”

And Now, Bonuses for VA Claims Processors?

The report could hardly come at a worse time for the VA, already suffering intense criticism for delays of up to 2 years in processing veterans’ claims for disability benefits. Despite working overtime since May, the VA acknowledges that some 480,000 benefit claims remain in “backlogged” status, taking more than 125 days to process.

On August 26, the Washington Post reported that the VA had paid its claims processors “millions of dollars in bonuses” for helping to show a reduction in the backlog by avoiding complicated claims that would take extra time to confirm veterans’ injuries and medical condition.

“The more complex claims were often set aside by workers so they could keep their jobs, meet performance standards or, in some cases, collect extra pay, said VA claims processors and union representatives,” reported the newspaper.

That may not have been exactly the method President Obama had in mind on August 10, 2013, when he promised the Disabled American Veterans that the benefit claims backlog would be eliminated “once and for all.”

Also See:
VA Says Catching Up on Disability Claims
VA Speeds Up Veterans Education Benefit Processing

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