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Key lawmaker looks to take back bonuses paid to VA employees

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 10, 2014, during a news conference on a bill to combat veteran suicides. Miller introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act to combat veteran suicide. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

The chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee has proposed legislation that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to seize thousand of dollars worth of bonuses paid to undeserving VA officials.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) proposed the legislation on Monday, after having heard several weeks worth of testimony from VA officials who said the law doesn't allow bonuses to be taken back once they are paid out.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., proposed a new bill that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs claw back thousands — perhaps millions — in bonuses to VA officials. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

That rule has infuriated both Republicans and Democrats who are looking to clean house at the VA. The VA's Office of Inspector General has found systemic problems throughout the department that has led officials to deny and delay health coverage for veterans, and cover up those efforts.

While those practices existed for years, VA officials who orchestrated the problem have received millions of dollars in bonuses over the last few years. In addition, all senior officials at the agency have received nothing but positive ratings during that time.

Miller said Monday that Congress needs to make it clear that the VA needs to rescind these bonuses if it's made clear later that the recipients of the money are not deserving.

"Apparently, VA officials aren't sure whether the department has the authority to recoup bonus payments to its own employees," he said.

"This bill is intended to clear up this confusion. Ideally, VA employees and executives who earned bonuses under false pretenses should be subject to prosecution, but at a minimum their bonuses should be paid back in full."

Late Monday night, a current VA employee told Miller's committee that the VA tried to cheat the system by putting new dates on thousands of veterans' benefit claims, to make it look like they were not waiting years for those benefits. When she blew the whistle to her superiors, her name was released to the people she reported, and she suffered retaliation for the last four years.

Members of the House and Senate are currently working on a VA reform bill that is expected to make it easier to fire VA officials involved in the scandal.

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