The Senate could vote at any time on S-696, to require repayment of bonuses and other forms of awards already paid to employees based on an “adverse finding” against the employee, following passage by Congress of language in a VA reform bill (S-1094) allowing that department to claw back payments made up to five years previously.

The bill, cleared recently by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, defines an adverse finding as a determination that an employee violated agency policy for which the employee could be removed or suspended from employment for 14 or more days or that the employee violated the law and could be imprisoned for more than one year.

Employees could not receive awards or bonuses in the year of such a finding or for five years afterward, and any already given in that year would have to be repaid to the agency.

“Under current law, there are no restrictions on awarding bonuses to federal employees. Information from the Office of Personnel Management indicates that some employees with conduct and performance issues have received bonuses,” the CBO said in its analysis of the bill.

It added, though, that in budget terms the bill “would not have a significant effect” because those situations are relatively rare.