September 8, 2013
Our veterans deserve nothing but the best.
These men and women have given their all in combat zones. Many of them have been deployed four to five times since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
So when these veterans come home from tours of duty, the Department of Veterans Affairs should be waiting with open arms to accommodate them and tend to their every need.
Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case. A recent investigation determined that while veterans were waiting longer than ever in recent years for their wartime disability compensation, the department gave its workers millions of dollars for “excellent” performances that effectively encouraged them to avoid claims that needed extra work to document veterans’ injuries.
In 2011, a year in which the claims backlog ballooned by 155 percent, more than two-thirds of claims processors shared $5.5 million in bonuses. The most complex claims were often set aside by workers so they could keep their jobs, meet performance standards or, in some cases, collect extra pay.
In other words, these workers were given bonuses for bad behavior.
This is a very damaging report and indicates that workers within the department were instructed to do less so they could receive their bonuses.
For example, the Baltimore office, which has the longest wait times in the country, gave bonuses averaging $1,100 each to 40 percent of its workers. The Oakland, Calif., office, which shut its doors to retain underperforming employees, awarded nine of every 10 workers a total of about $33,000 - almost enough to pay the standard year’s benefit to a veteran who is 100 percent disabled.
What an outrage. …
We understand the department is busy with all of these claims, but that is no excuse for handing out bonuses to its employees while veterans wait for their benefits for months and, in some cases, years.
The department needs to speed up its waiting period for our veterans.
Our veterans deserve better, and hopefully through this report they will now get it.
— The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.