Maui Business

Reps. Gabbard, Guinta Introduce Act to Prevent Unearned VA Bonuses

January 14, 2016, 8:28 AM HST
* Updated January 14, 8:34 AM
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US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy image.

US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy image.

US Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Frank Guinta (NH-01) introduced the Veterans Administration Bonus Elimination Act to help ensure timely delivery of care to the country’s military veterans.

The bill denies bonuses to senior VA executives who fail to ensure that veterans receive care within 30 days, as required under VA guidelines.

“It is unconscionable that senior VA officials are rewarded with bonuses, while hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country are still facing major delays in receiving the care that they need and have earned,” said Rep. Gabbard. “Even after the VA scandal in 2014, veteran wait times have increased. In October 2015, the VA said there were nearly 500,000 veterans who were waiting over 30 days to receive care. The fact that the systemic problems within the VA that created this situation continue to persist is deeply troublesome. Those who are responsible for ensuring our nation’s veterans get the care and services they need should be held accountable, not rewarded for their malpractice. This bill is a step forward in repairing our veterans’ trust.”

“Bonuses should be rewards for quality work, completed on time, but revelations of secret waiting lists and subpar care tell a different story about some VA facilities,” said Rep. Frank Guinta. “Even after a nationwide scandal and legislation to fix the problem, securing an appointment remains difficult. The bureaucracy only reluctantly embraces reform. Our bill puts pressure on the VA to meet reasonable goals that Congress instituted by law. We should show the same commitment to US military veterans that they have shown our country.”

According to VA guidelines, veterans should wait no more than 30 days for a medical appointment. In 2014, whistleblowers at several VA hospitals revealed that employees often manipulated waiting list data to collect performance bonuses.

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An internal audit found that over 120,000 vets waited at least 90 days, even after the scandal broke.

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In Hawaiʻi, veterans experienced the longest wait times in the country, averaging 145 days—almost five months—for a simple primary care visit. That same year, the VA paid $142 million in bonuses, ranging from $500 to $13,000, to employees.

As these VA crises unfolded in 2014, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Access to Care and Treatment (ACT) Now for Veterans Act to enable veterans to get immediate care from non-VA medical providers. The congresswoman’s legislation was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which was signed into law that same year.

Rep. Gabbard is a major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and a veteran of two Middle East deployments. She is a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

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Rep. Guinta, Manchester, New Hampshire’s former two-term mayor, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.

MAUI NOW STORY LINK
VA Audit Reveals 145 Day Wait Time for Honolulu Veterans

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