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Opening Statement of Hon. Ginny Brown-Waite, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

June 12, 2007

Mr. Chairman, thank you for yielding.  I would also like to thank the witnesses before us for coming to this hearing.  Your testimony is important to the oversight of this Committee in guaranteeing the process of assessing bonus reviews is fair, accurate, and appropriate.

During our Subcommittee hearing on April 19th, discussing the care situation at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina, I asked for a list of the people who were involved in the administration of care at the hospital, and the bonuses they received over the period of time, where there was obviously questionable quality of care rendered to veterans at that facility.  The federal government should not be in the practice of providing bonuses to individuals who permit a failure in the system under their watch.  I believe that government should be run like a business enterprise, where bonuses are used as an appropriate reward, but are limited to only the very best and most deserving employees, especially during a time of war.

Several members on both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration over the bonus situation, particularly after the many news articles describing who received certain bonuses, and speculation as to whether these bonuses were justly and appropriately applied through the SES bonus process.  The news media has linked bonuses to the 2005 budget shortfall issue, one that is very fresh on the minds of those of us here who served on the Committee during the 109th Congress.  The media and several Members have also linked the bonuses to the claims backlog that is prevalent at the VA.  I am concerned that we not be too quick to judge the evaluation process, but give all the witnesses here a fair process to express their views. 

It is my hope that, through the process of this hearing, we will learn more about how the VA determines the bonus awards given out, and whether the bonuses to members of the Senior Executive Service at the VA were given in an appropriate amount related to their actual performance.  I also look forward to hearing from GAO to better understand how OPM certifies VA’s bonus process and perhaps a better insight on VA’s bonus justification process.  I am sure many of the bonuses reflect the hard work and professionalism of VA’s senior management.

Again, thank you for yielding Mr. Chairman, and I yield back my time.