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VA criticized for bonuses to doctors, dentists

WASHINGTON — A newly released Government Accountability Office study says the Department of Veterans Affairs awarded bonuses to most of the doctors and dentists serving at its medical centers, despite lacking reasonable assurances that the added pay was linked to performance.

In 2011, about 80 percent of the Veterans Health Administration’s nearly 22,500 providers received about $150 million in performance pay.

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Every medical provider who was eligible for performance pay at four medical centers the GAO visited received bonuses, including five who had actions taken against them related to their clinical performance, the GAO said.

The report says that VA policy does not specify in writing that the purpose of the bonuses is to improve health care and has not reviewed the goals set by medical centers.

‘‘This is irrefutable proof of what we’ve known for quite some time: That in many cases, VA’s performance pay and bonus system has absolutely nothing to do with performance,’’ said Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who has been critical of bonuses paid by the department. Miller called on VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to conduct ‘‘a top-to-bottom review of VA’s performance appraisal system.’’

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