Bonuses: Attaboy or entitlement?

Tuesday - 6/3/2014, 2:00am EDT

Is the last bonus you got also the last bonus you are ever going to get?

If your 2015 vacation hopes are riding on an anticipated bonus, should you dust off Plan B?

The you-ain't-seen-nothing-yet scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. For the first time in years, maybe a decade or more, both political parties agree on something. That something is that the VA has major problems. Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are out for blood. They want to know who knew what when and, like the crowd during the French Revolution, they want heads to roll.

While there is some disagreement on the timeline as to when the VA actually "broke," just about every member of Congress has piled on. Many people in and out of Congress and the government blame the already embattled federal bonus system.

The Federal Times last month reported that bonuses last year were worth $176.6 million, but that was down from $332 million the year before. It blamed budget cuts and sequestration for the decline. The peak year for bonuses was 2011, when Uncle Sam paid out $439 million mostly to middle- and upper-grade employees. But even with limits on budgets, it said more than a dozen workers got performance awards of $50,000 or more, and that half of them got the maximum $62,895 payment.

While Congress is still digging, a growing number of people think that some workers in some agencies have come to look upon bonuses as an entitlement. Some people feel that in some agencies, bonuses are rotated so that some people get them every few years.

A recently retired career federal official, who also worked on Capitol Hill in his younger days, put it like this:

Regarding the VA, in my view, it's all about the bonuses. I think the vast majority of those who take care of the facilities or deliver patient care are WG or low-GS nurses aides, etc. who don't qualify for bonuses. I think they simply have largely unpleasant jobs that they perform in exchange for a decent salary. Many of these facilities are situated in more remote locations and, in those cases, these jobs are secure and sought after. These support jobs are often held by veterans who take pride in serving their "local" boys and girls.

However, for the managers, administrators and executives who oversee the VA and other federal activities — at thousands of VA facilities and elsewhere in government — about 15 years ago they began to treat their pay as a given, while focusing intently on securing an ever-widening array of bonuses. In my view these "leaders" should put their talents toward helping direct service providers actually provide better service to veterans. Instead, they seem focused on using their talents to show how much they have "saved" their agencies and making sure that the almighty "metrics" prove that they deserve recurring bonuses for their efforts.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The traditional soccer ball contains 32 pentagonal and hexagonal panels. However, the ball that will be used in the 2014 World Cup will have only six panels. According to a study published by Scientific Reports, the six-paneled Brazuca, made by Adidas, is more stable when flying through the air than other balls.

(Source: LiveScience)


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