A union representing government employees on Tuesday condemned a bill meant to reform how bonuses are awarded at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The bill, which was recently introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, would allow the secretary of Veterans Affairs to decide what employees at the VA get bonuses and awards. However, the American Federation of Government Employees argues the bill will only worsen problems that have plagued the agency.

Last year, the VA became the center of controversy when dozens of military veterans died while waiting to get help. The issue has been blamed on everything from bureaucratic incompetence to the VA not having enough funding.

The bill would also grant the secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to take bonuses away from bad VA employees.

“It’s time to turn the page on morale-busting measures like Rep. Miller’s proposal and focus on the mission of delivering top-quality care to America’s veterans,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. declared in a statement.

“We can’t forget that it was strong-arm tactics like this that were used to retaliate against employees looking to speak out against secret waitlists and mismanaged care,” Cox argued.

“The VA needs more vehicles to reward good behavior and attract talented employees, not a cudgel to silence dissenting voices,” Cox said. “Secretary McDonald has charted a promising course for the VA, and our veterans will be best served if Congress follows suit and works to improve care and working conditions at the VA.”

AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee argued, “Our focus must be on fulfilling the mission of the agency and not on legislation that arbitrarily punishes hard working employees.”

Aleks Morosky, deputy director of the national legislative service for Veterans of Foreign Wars, disagrees, arguing that the bill could help award good workers.

During a hearing for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Morosky declared, “The VFW agrees with this legislation.”

“Employees receive bonuses as an incentive and recognition for their superior work performance,” Morosky said. “But if a bonus is found, after the fact, to be awarded to an employee who manipulated data, put veterans at risk of harm or in some other way defrauded the government to receive that bonus, the Secretary should have the authority to recoup the bonus amount.”

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