Ex-VA Director Got $13K Bonus Despite Claims Backlog

By: Matt Howerton Email
By: Matt Howerton Email

WACO (August 4, 2013) -- Last week, a report released from the Officer of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that 40 percent of the disability claims inspectors reviewed at the Waco VA Regional Office were inaccurately processed and requested fresher training for employees.

Inspectors reviewed 60 disability claims pending at the office and found that 15 of 30 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations were inaccurate and that errors were made in processing nine of 30 traumatic brain injury claims, the VA said.

Now News 10 has learned that the former Director of the Waco VA Regional Office was one of many VA executives who were awarded thousands of dollars in bonuses despite a growing backlog in disability claims over the years.

In April, records surfaced that the VA paid its senior executives a total of $2.8 million in bonuses in fiscal year 2011 alone. Among the VBA bonuses, three staff members received the top payment of $23,091 each.

Carl Lowe, Director of the Waco VA Regional Office from 2000 to 2011, was one of many who collected a bonus before retiring.

According to a federal database search, Lowe’s base salary was $173,600 in 2011. Documents obtained by News 10 show that Lowe was sometimes awarded up to $13,000 a year in bonuses.

The Austin American Statesman first reported that Lowe accrued $53,436 in yearly bonuses between 2007 and 2011.

The number of disability claims pending for longer than 125 days jumped from less than 200,000 to nearly 500,000 nationwide in the fiscal year of 2011.

In November 2012, the Waco VARO reported having 48,753 pending compensation claims.

Their current average time to complete a claim is 474 days, 224 days behind the national target of 250.

McLennan County Veterans Officer Steve Hernandez says that the amount of money some executives were awarded is disappointing to hear.

“This backlog isn’t going away, and we fiscally don’t have a ton of money,” Hernandez said.

“I was really surprised this happened and that there was even a system in place for incentives."

VA Officials in Washington have since said they would withhold executive bonuses in 2013 and invest the savings in depleting its nationwide backlog of pending claims.

Lowe was contacted Sunday night and wished not to comment.

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