Veterans Affairs workers reap bonuses despite claims backlog

Staffers in the Department of Veterans Affairs have been reaping millions of dollars in bonuses despite a huge backlog of cases that has veterans waiting hundreds of days for compensation.

The bonuses were reported Monday by journalism project News21, whose findings were published in The Washington Post.

The report said that in 2011, more than two-thirds of claims processors received a total of $5.5 million in bonuses. That same year, the backlog of claims swelled by 155 percent.

The bonuses reportedly created a perverse system, where workers were encouraged to stick to simple cases in order to meet certain performance benchmarks -- in turn ignoring claims that required additional attention.

"At the beginning of the month ... I'd try to work my really easy stuff so I could get my numbers up," Renee Cotter, a union steward for a Reno, Nev., chapter, reportedly said.

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    The VA is now pushing to eliminate the backlog by 2015. Officials in the VA defend the employees, saying the bonuses are justified because workers are processing more claims than ever in order to try and thin the backlog.