Senators from both parties, including Moran of Kansas, condemn inappropriate payments to VA officials.

In a letter that outlined potential changes, Sen. Jerry Moran has expressed the need for greater accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This move puts him in line with other lawmakers who share the same concern. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, including Kansas GOP Senator Jerry Moran, is pushing for increased accountability from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This comes as new information has surfaced regarding the improper allocation of millions of dollars to senior-level personnel.

In May 9’s newly released report, it was revealed that the department had allocated funds intended for employee retention and recruitment to senior executives who were not eligible to receive them. The report detailed that a total of $10.8 million in Critical Skills Incentive payments was given to 182 senior executive employees, with each person receiving between approximately $39,000 to over $100,000. This incident occurred back in September of 2023.

The VA made payments that were later canceled, and Congress was notified of the incident. The VA Office of Inspector General conducted a review and discovered that leadership breakdowns, lack of transparency and communication, and failure to detect legal issues were the reasons behind the “improper” payments, according to the report.

On Thursday, Moran teamed up with Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, and 11 other legislators to denounce the Department of Veteran Affairs’ “flagrant misuse of recruitment and retention incentives.”

In 2023, after the initial report, VA-focused committees in the House and Senate, including Moran, sent a letter requesting increased due diligence, oversight, and planning from the department.

In similar fashion, a letter was sent to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in 2024.

In a letter addressed to VA, the senators expressed their disappointment and concern over the misuse of recruitment and retention incentives. These incentives were supposed to be used to improve the quality of health care and benefits for veterans by strengthening VA’s front-line workforce. However, instead of fulfilling their intended purpose, these incentives were used to increase the salaries of executives in VACO. This action is deemed unethical and a violation of VA policy, as well as being in direct opposition to the Congress’ intent. The senators strongly condemn this misuse of authority and demand immediate action to remedy this situation.

The VA workforce is being strengthened by the establishment of Critical Skill Incentives through the 2022 PACT Act. These incentives aim to provide healthcare and compensation to veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and other harmful chemicals. The primary objective of these benefits is to attract highly skilled employees to the VA.

According to reports, most of the individuals who received incorrect bonuses, comprising 81% of the total, were senior executive service employees affiliated with the Veterans Health Administration. The remaining recipients were executives from the Veterans Benefits Administration.

The senators emphasized that while Congress will continue to maintain a strong oversight and enforce its intentions in all matters, it cannot legislate accountable leadership. They urged the VA to take bold measures to guarantee transparency and accountability across the organization as a way of restoring the public’s confidence.

Senators Patty Murray, John Boozman, Sherrod Brown, Bill Cassidy, Richard Blumenthal, Thom Tillis, Mazie Hirono, Kevin Cramer, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Angus King have all endorsed and signed the letter.

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