Veterans Affairs

“ Bonus-Driven ” Mentality Must End

By David Eberhart Stars and Stripes Veterans Affairs Editor
Phil Cushman of Veterans Due Process:

Two attorneys that worked for the Board of Veterans Appeals drew prison time for separately committing fraud in 1994 and 1995. They destroyed records that were sent to them for review, rejecting the veterans ’ cases on the grounds that the records were missing. The attorneys said on the record that they believed the quick denials would make them appear more productive and eligible for “bigger bonuses.”
“The Senior Executive Service Act, which appears as Title 5 U.S. Code, Section 3131, provides for substantial cash awards ($30,000 per year, more or less) to federal managers (to include VA managers) who demonstrate to the government that they are ‘responsive to the policies and goals of the Nation.’

”The lure of cash bonuses tied directly to the twin ‘goals’ of production and cost-efficiency can be tragic for America ’s injured defenders. Yet the VA system has enjoyed insulation from meaningful outside scrutiny into its system ever since Congress enacted the 1933 ‘Economy Act’, which effectively closed America ’s U.S. district courts to veterans . These same veterans had already been denied the freedom to spend their dollars to hire attorneys to protect their legal rights concerning VA claims.

”While some would argue that it would be difficult to guess the true extent to which the bonus-driven VA has resulted in contempt for the law, there are powerful indicators. Not the least of these are the repeated declarations by Chief Judge Nebeker of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Nebeker knows from experience that the VA holds itself to be above the law. No one at the VA wants the goose that is laying the golden eggs to be examined too closely.

“Lord Acton adequately described this bonus and VA-above-the-law reality in his maxim, ‘All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

The VA slipped its constitutional chains during 1933, and has never been harnessed to the law since. America’s injured war defenders, who defend the rule of law with their lives, blood and limb, should not themselves be denied fundamental due process. Article 3 [ U.S. Consitution] U.S. district courts must finally subject the VA to real and meaningful judicial review.
“These courts, so empowered, could utilize their fine and imprisonment powers to force the VA to obey the law, placing it above the bonus-driven mentality of today. In the age of primary focus on personal financial prosperity in which we live, the law simply cannot compete.