Veterans Affairs (VA) officials who took home more than $20,000 in bonuses from 2016 to 2018 may have used their taxpayer-funded compensation to pay for expensive trips, according to an internal report obtained by Breitbart News.
The report from the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that veterans who received bonuses were given the option of either transferring money from their current VA benefit to their next VA benefits, or to repay the bonuses.
The IG report found that a total of 2,902 VA employees received bonuses, including 1,816 who were paid $1,000 or more.
A total of 717 VA employees earned more than one $1.5 million in compensation from 2015 to 2018, according the IG.
In total, 2,091 VA employees were paid more than the $2,000 VA threshold for a VA pension.
The VA’s Office of Civil Rights investigated and closed the VA’s Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) for fraud and mismanagement in 2015, and in June 2018, the VA inspector general’s office recommended that it be reopened.
In a statement, the Department said it is “committed to transparency” and “provides an opportunity for those with information about the system to share that information with the public.”
The Department has not released the names of the employees who received the bonuses, citing the IG report’s “sensitive nature.”
A spokesperson for the Office said the office “does not comment on individual employee matters.”
The VA inspector-general’s report also found that VA managers used “administrative and management discretion” in approving bonuses to employees, which “has the effect of making it difficult for VA employees to receive adequate compensation in retirement.”
The IG’s report concluded that “management has failed to establish procedures to prevent misuse of bonuses by VA employees,” and has not responded to a request for comment.
The Trump administration’s Office for Government Accountability (OGA) said in a statement that “in recent years, VA has implemented several policies to ensure that VA employees who receive bonuses are paid properly and that the VA has procedures in place to prevent abuse of bonuses.”
The OGA said that the IG’s findings “raise questions about whether VA is adequately auditing bonuses and is providing fair and timely compensation for VA personnel.”
The Trump White House released a statement saying that “VA has been working to fix the mistakes made in the past and will continue to do so.
As it has in the wake of the IG findings, the Administration will continue its efforts to ensure VA is fully and fully funded and that it can properly pay VA employees.”
VA spokesman Brian Leary did not immediately respond to a question about the IGs findings.
The Inspector General said in the IG reports it was not clear why some bonuses were earmarked for the veterans, while others were not.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said it “has made significant progress in reforming OPM and the system it uses for awarding bonuses.”
But OPM did not respond to Breitbart News’ request for comments.
The OPM also said it was “looking at all aspects of VA’s compensation program” and that “we will continue working with the IG to understand the scope of the problems and their solutions.”
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing in April 2018 to look into allegations of misconduct at VA and to report back to the Trump administration on its progress.
The committee is looking into allegations that veterans were not getting timely benefits, not being given adequate training and other issues.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform also held a series of hearings this year looking into VA.
The panel’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-MD, said in June that “there’s a lot of money in the bonuses that are being given out, but there’s also a lot to be said for not giving bonuses to those who were actually responsible for these problems.”