The bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have pressed the VA on its use of “critical skill incentives” saying that “Contrary to congressional intent, incentives were used to boost pay of senior executives at VA rather than bolster staffing for critical shortage positions requiring highly skilled individuals.”
In a letter to the VA, they noted that the authority contained in last year’s PACT Act “was intended to improve staffing of positions requiring critical or high-demand skills essential to the day-to-day operations at VA, such as human resources specialists, information technology professionals, police officers, and housekeepers, which have faced hiring shortages for years.”
However, they said that while the VA did allot some $100 million for such positions, during a recent review of expenditures the department identified it had paid $9.7 million in those incentives to certain career senior executives who work at VA headquarters without ensuring the payments met the criteria.
“We expect a much higher level of due diligence, oversight, and planning at this executive level. VA must strengthen its internal controls and management structures to ensure authorities provided by Congress do not suffer from similar carelessness,” they said, adding that they “will pursue additional oversight and more aggressive safeguards on existing and future authorities to ensure this does not happen again.
For the meantime, they asked for information including the general guidance the VA used for paying the incentives, the cited justifications for paying them to the headquarters executives, and more.