Tagged: military pay

Will Your Taxes Be More Complicated This Year?

Posted by Debi Teter
Tax return checkThere’s been a lot of buzz already in 2015 about how complicated it will be to file taxes thanks to the new requirement to prove you have enough mandatory health insurance coverage. (There’s also buzz about how the IRS isn’t staffed well enough at their help centers to handle all of the questions, but we won’t get into that today.) Why is filling out taxes going to cause a bigger headache for most Americans, and will the typical military family need a jumbo-sized bottle of aspirin to survive? If you are active duty military, you will probably escape the headache pretty easily. The good news is that all the ways that make this tax season especially confusing for most of America don’t really apply to the active duty military. That’s because troops and almost all of their dependents have coverage through Tricare. Long before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, started requiring everyone to have a certain level of health care coverage. You still have slightly different requirements this year, though. Like every other tax-filing American, Tricare users will need to “self-identify” on their tax forms as having the minimal required coverage. There are three versions of the basic 1040 federal income tax return: the 1040EZ, the 1040A, and the regular 1040. Each form has a line that says Health Care: individual responsibility (see instructions), and then the words Full-year coverage and then a box.  IF you had an acceptable forms of Tricare for the entire 2014 calendar and tax year, then you just check the box and you are done. What are the acceptable forms of Tricare? Any of these:
  • Prime
  • Standard
  • Tricare for Life
  • Overseas
  • Remote
  • Uniformed Services Family Health Plan
  • Tricare Young Adult
  • Tricare Reserve Select
  • Tricare Retired Reserve
Minimum required coverage is also provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to those who are enrolled with the VA for health care, and for those who are enrolled in the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA.) Dependent parents and parents-in-law using Tricare under their active-duty military children’s plans are the only users whose Tricare plans DON’T meet that requirement. Because they use Tricare on a space-available basis, it doesn’t meet the rule for minimum coverage. They need to buy other coverage or pay a fine starting next year. For this year, however, they are covered under an exemption (which can be claimed by filing Form 8965.)

The basics of myPay

Posted by Debi Teter
basics-of-mypay-on-militaryauthority.comWhat is myPay? myPay is an innovative, automated system that puts you in control of processing certain discretionary pay data items without using paper forms. You can also get your pay and tax statements, and travel advice of payment using myPay. Why should I use myPay? 
  • myPay saves time. myPay eliminates the need to write letters or fill out forms by letting you make your own changes immediately with user-friendly technology.
  • myPay is convenient. You can access myPay nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to change or review your current information, or to check your most recent pay statement.
  • myPay is reliable. myPay has the same procedural checks for accuracy as the paper forms.
When is myPay available?  myPay is available nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Which pay changes can I make using myPay?  You can change a variety of discretionary payroll items. You can get a current list of the items you can change from myPay, your servicing payroll office, or your customer service representative. When will my changes be effective?  Upon completion and acceptance of a change, myPay will display a “NO LATER THAN” date. Your change will be effective on or before the date myPay displays.
  • Annuitants, Military (all services & components), Civilians and Retirees: You can verify the change to your account by accessing myPay three to seven business days after you make the change, or by contacting your customer service representative.
How will I know that my change was made?  In keeping with government streamlining efforts and to reduce the use of paper, myPay takes advantage of existing technology and is paperless, so you will not receive any written confirmation. However, myPay displays a “NO LATER THAN” date before and after your change is accepted. Any change you make to your account should be posted no later than this date. You must receive this notification message to ensure that your action has been accepted. If your change does not appear on your account by then, contact your customer service representative. If you have a registered email address, an email notification will be sent when the transaction is sent to your pay system for processing.
  • Military (Active and Reserve), and Civilians: You may check your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) to verify that your change was processed.
  • Annuitants: You will receive a pay statement in the mail each time you make a change to your account.
  • Retirees: If you make a change to your allotments or federal tax withholding amount, you will receive a Retiree Account Statement (RAS) in the mail reflecting the change in your net pay unless you have elected to receive your RAS electronically.

Military Tax Deductions

Posted by Debi Teter
Tax Season is LoomingIt’s that time again…time to figure out your taxes for 2013 and send in payment, or hopefully, get a refund. If you haven’t filed yet, you may feel like it’s looming over your head. No one likes to pay. But if you don’t spend the time and energy that is required to itemize your return, you could be throwing money away. Itemized deductions, using Schedule A of IRS Form 1040, can save you a great deal of money if you are in the military. To get the most out of your deductions, seek some help from your local Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) offices or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Office. VITA us available if your income is below $49,000. Using AFTC is very useful because these tax specialists are versed in the sections of the tax code that apply to military members. You can also take advantage of Free File, a free online tax filing service available through the IRS website. There are many military-specific itemized deductions that you might be able to take. A good way of understanding these deductions is to look at your job in the military as your own business for tax purposes. In other words, what do you need for your business (the military) that you wouldn’t otherwise have to pay for out of your own pocket? If these items are used exclusively for your military service and the government does not pay for them for, they are probably deductible. A good example of the deductible rule is restricted and special uniforms. These are deductible while regular uniforms are not. Local, state and foreign taxes are also deductible. Some types of property and sales taxes are deductible. Interest paid on mortgages, home equity lines and student loans is usually deductible. If you are a student, you or your parents can take advantage of the American Opportunity Credit (up to $2,500 per student), the Lifetime Learning Credit ($2,000-$4,000) and the Tuition and Fees Deduction (up to $4,000 per student). The Tuition and Fees Deduction cannot be used in conjunction with the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learner’s Credit. Educational and training courses required for work (such as continuing education) are deductible. The “Making Work Pay” Credit — also known as Earned Income Credit — allows military members to claim the credit for combat pay even if they haven’t paid taxes on the money. To take this credit, you will need to fill out schedule M. There are also child care credits, credits for charitable donations, medical expenses, small business expenses if your spouse has a business and many other types of deductions. Every service member’s situation is different which is why it is a good idea to take advantage of VITA or AFTC. If you received the income as reimbursement or as an allowance, you do not include that pay as part of your gross income. Some examples are: Living Allowances
  • Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) — You can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on your home even if you pay those expenses with your BAH
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
  • Housing and cost-of-living allowances abroad, whether paid by the US government or by a foreign government
  • Overseas Housing Allowance
Family Allowances
  • Emergencies
  • Evacuation to a place of safety
  • Some educational expenses for dependents
  • Separation
Death Allowances
  • Burial services
  • Death gratuity payments to eligible survivors
  • Travel of dependents to burial site
Moving Allowances
  • Dislocation
  • Move-in housing
  • Moving household and personal items
  • Moving trailers or mobile homes
  • Storage
  • Temporary lodging and temporary lodging expenses
  • Military base realignment and closure benefit — This benefit is calculated as 95% of the fair market value of the property before any public announcement of the intent to close all of part of the military installation minus the property’s fair market value at the time of sale)
Travel Allowances
  • Annual round trip for dependent students
  • Leave between consecutive overseas tours
  • Reassignment in a dependent-restricted status
  • Transportation for you or your dependents during ship overhaul or inactivation
  • Per diem
Other Payments
  • Defense counseling
  • Disability, including payments received for injuries incurred as a direct result of a terrorist or military action
  • Group term life insurance
  • Professional education
  • ROTC educational and subsistence allowances
  • Survivor and retirement-protection plan premiums
  • Uniform allowances
  • Uniforms furnished to enlisted personnel
In-kind Military Benefits
  • Dependent care assistance
  • Legal assistance
  • Space-available travel on government aircraft
  • Medical and dental care
  • Commissary and exchange discounts
  Military members, as W-2 employees, don’t have all that many options when it comes to sidestepping a tax bite. Uncle Sam knows everything you make from the military, and except for certain pay earned in a combat zone and some special allowances like BAH, it’s nearly all taxable. But itemizing these deductions and exemptions available to you can save you a lot of money.

USAA Prepared to Extend Credit to Members if Debt Ceiling Affects Military Pay

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com debt ceiling military payUSAA, the popular financial services firm catering to military members, veterans and their families, is prepared to extend credit if the debt ceiling affects military pay, the company has announced. 

The debt ceiling is the total limit on outstanding federal borrowing as authorized by Congress. The Treasury Department has projected that unless Congress extends the federal limit on borrowing. 

If it doesn’t, the U.S. Treasury must make scheduled interest and principal payments on outstanding bonds, but it cannot borrow additional money except as debt is paid off. This would likely force the federal government to cut or eliminate a significant percentage of its day-to-day spending. Nearly everything is on the table – including military pay. 

The Treasury Secretary expects the Treasury to run out of creative financing options on the debt as of Thursday, 17 October. At that point, we may begin seeing paychecks to servicemembers, Social Security beneficiaries, federal employees, and even disabled individuals qualifying for VA benefits shorted or zeroed out until further notice. 

Should that occur, USAA has indicated it will offer zero-interest payroll advance loans to members of the military – including members of the National Guard and Reserves. The offer also extends to military retirees and veterans receiving VA benefits. 

The catch: You have to have been receiving these benefits via direct deposit at USAA Federal Savings Bank, or another USAA account. You have to have already received at least two direct deposit accounts over the past 60 days into your USAA account. The total maximum loan under this program is $6,000 per member. 

The maximum loan amount, initially, will be the amount of a bi-monthly direct deposit, or half of the deposit, for those paid monthly. 

 

Additional measures

USAA has also indicated it is willing to work with affected members in arranging deferrals on some bank loan payments. It may also refund some fees, provide extended or flexible terms on insurance payments, and allow for penalty-free withdrawals of funds from certificates of deposit. Any loans with payments deferred would continue to accrue interest. 

Loan proceeds will be credited to the USAA bank account, and will be debited upon the next scheduled direct deposit date. 

USAA expects to email those eligible. If you receive an email – or believe you should have received an email – visit the USAA website at USAA.com and visit the My Offers section of the site.

 

Our take

Making this a zero-interest loan is a very generous offer – but it also underscores the advantage of doing business with a financial services firm with a mutual structure. While there are variations on the specifics, USAA is jointly owned by its members. It does not trade shares on the exchanges, nor is it owned by outsider stockholders who expect to receive dividends every year. This gives its directors the freedom to make decisions that are strictly in the best interests of their members. 

The members believed that extending this benefit was more valuable to members during a crisis than an increased dividend payment down the road. 

We agree and applaud USAA for taking this stand – as well as having the foresight to raise capital in advance to fund it. 

That said, USAA members still need to be careful: This is not an open-ended loan. Under the terms already specified, it’s limited to about 2-weeks direct deposit, or $6,000, whichever is less. 

USAA has not committed to deferring the collection until after the debt ceiling is authorized – assuming Congress does authorize an increase – and normal payroll and benefits disbursal is restored. If USAA zaps those accounts, as scheduled, but funding to pay salaries and benefits is not fully restored, members could still find themselves in a bind. 

Even under the best of circumstances, unless Congress approves back pay, members could still find themselves in a tight spot. If you get advanced a two-week direct deposit, and USAA zaps your account two weeks later for the amount funded, you’ve just delayed the problem by two weeks. It’s not this week’s deposit that gets cleaned out – it’s the next one. So this loan doesn’t do much but give you a little breathing room, and a couple of weeks to figure things out.

Fun Friday: Government Shutdown Edition

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com fun friday twitter shutdown commentsIn light of the government shutdown, here are some of the best things we’ve found on twitter regarding this glorious example of democracy in action… 


DENISE ™ @denisealondra

“After the sequester, they will cut back on airport security. We will have to pat ourselves down.” @LateShow #shutdownjokes

 

Adam Armus @AdamArmus

Grand Canyon closed. Visit Congress for alternative gaping hole. #ShutdownSuggestions

 

The Daily Show @TheDailyShow

Museums are closed. Hit up nursing homes to see old stuff instead. #ShutdownSuggestions

 

The Canada Party @theCanadaParty

Move to Canada. Open 24 hrs. #ShutdownSuggestions


Danielle @thatdanielle

Note to self: Do not get infectious disease today. Or apparently tomorrow. And possibly the day after.

 

The Milky Way @milkscone

have you tried turning it off and on again? #ShutdownSuggestions

 

Cory Confesses @CoryConfesses

@TheDailyShow Will my taxes be prorated during the shutdown? #ShutdownSuggestions

 

Making light of these circumstances is just one way of coping. But on a serious note, we don’t think that 800,000 people without jobs is funny, nor do we think that the loss of veterans programs, benefits, or military paychecks isn’t a very serious situation. Our thoughts are with all those directly impacted by the furloughs. Which, truly, is all of us.

We the people must look after each other. Those that are able, please consider donating to your local food pantries, shelters, churches, or other support organizations.

Government Stiffs Gold Star Families

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com hagel no death gratuity gold star families shutdownThe families of at least seventeen American servicemen and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan since October 1 have not yet received their death gratuity payments. This money, amounting to $100,000 per individual, plus an additional death benefit of $10,050, is normally paid out via wire transfer within a couple of days of a servicemember’s death. However, the Department of Defense has announced it has no plans to pay the benefit – unless Congress first changes the law. 

At issue: A technical reading of the Pay Our Military Act, a law that passed both houses of Congress last week and gained the President’s signature. 

The Secretary of Defense has announced that because of the way the law was written, he has no legal authority to pay death gratuity benefits, nor any other benefits payable to the families of military servicemembers, as opposed to the servicemembers themselves. 

Congressional Republicans, for their part, argue that the Secretary’s interpretation of the law is flawed, and that he should pay the benefits immediately. Season to taste with partisan vitriol. 

Who’s right?  

The Secretary, in this case. 

Why? We simply refer to the plain text of the law, which only authorizes payment to three categories: 

    • Members serving under Title 10 orders, including reserve component servicemembers. 
    • Payments made to DoD and Department of Homeland Security personnel providing support to members of the Armed Forces (which the law restricts to those serving under Title 10 orders)
    • Payments to contractors providing services to the same group of servicemembers as above. 

 

That’s it. 

Nothing in the law specifies a Congressional authorization for payments to family members. 

The law also halts the free transportation of family members of deceased to Dover AFB to receive the remains of their loved ones. 

The House expects to have an additional appropriations bill allowing the payments up for a vote by the end of the week.

Democrats have not as yet said they will support the bill. They have announced opposition to other separate appropriations bills over the last week, preferring to hang on to their bargaining power for a larger deal. 

However, they readily passed the Pay Our Military Act at the first opportunity in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the President quickly signed it. Our projection is that this is not the hill the Democrats want to die on, and that the additional appropriations will be passed quickly. 

That’s cold comfort to these families, though, who need the cash now. Families who lose loved ones frequently have to take extensive time off work, travel, sometimes buy suits, rent facilities for memorial services, and have a variety of other expenses. SGLI may or may not be a suitable replacement. For example, it may take longer to pay out, or it may go to a different individual than the death gratuity. In the worst-case scenario, the servicemember may choose not to take out an SGLI policy and keep a few extra dollars per month. In that case, the family is left only with the death gratuity. 

To add insult to injury, the Secretary of Defense is saying the payment of residual unpaid pay and allowances, or income in respect of a decedent, is not authorized by Congress, either.

Shutdown! How Military Families Are Affected

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com military families affected by shutdownIf you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that most non-essential government functions have shut down effective the start of the 2014 fiscal year, because Congress and the President were unable to agree on a budget. 

I say “most” non-essential government functions, because this Administration obviously deems it critically important to its functioning that we pay a number of federal workers to erect barricades to the open-air WWII Memorial, wire them shutand threaten our older veterans with arrest if they visit. 

Commissary workers, however? They aren’t considered essential at all. At least not in the United States, though overseas commissaries will remain open.  

 

Military Pay

Military pay for active duty troops will continue through the shutdown. Congress and the President agreed to fund salaries for uniformed military and selected civilian employees at the beginning of this week. However, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, interpreted the Congressional bill to exclude members of the National Guard, including full-time military technicians. This news came as a surprise to some Congressional Republicans who passed the bill: “I believe along with many others that he has improperly furloughed the National Guard employees,” said Candice Miller, (R – Michigan). “That was certainly not the intent of the act that we passed. For them to be furloughed — I quite frankly was stunned when he did that after we passed that bill.

 

Is retiree pay affected?

Not directly by the shutdown. Retiree pay comes out of a different pot of money than the one Congress is fighting over now. However, even if a budget is approved, we have another Congressional battle looming over the debt limit. Unless Congress approves additional borrowing, the federal government will no longer have access to the 40 cents out of ever dollar it’s been borrowing to finance spending. At that point, all bets are off, and nearly everything goes on the table. Military retiree pay could be reduced or even eliminated under that scenario. However, our view is that the threat of such a shutdown will drive both sides in Congress to strike a deal of some sort to avoid it. 

If you are distressed by money problems, or feeling depressed and suicidal, rest easy: The counselors at Military OneSource are still phoning it in. They will be happy to refer you to other federal agencies which are now closed. 

 

Child Services

If you’re stressed because you have small children and you need assistance with child care, again, all bets are off. The DoD has helpfully suggested you call your local child care activity on base for further guidance. Generally, federal Child Development Centers will remain open, according to the Military Family Association. However, school-aged care programs may be rolled back or eliminated in your area unless attached to a CDC. 

DoD schools remain open. 

The exchanges will be open for business. AAFES and the Navy-Marine Corps Exchange do not receive federal appropriations, so don’t rely on Congress for anything. 

 

Education

Tuition Assistance – the same TA benefit that the DoD tried to strangle last spring to save money, will grind to a halt. No benefits will be disbursed for new classes until further notice.

Education centers are closed. This includes computer labs and counseling centers.  

MyCAA, or My Career Assistance Accounts, are closed to new requests until further notice. However, military spouses with benefits approved before October 1 are good to go. You can attend class. More information available at the SECO website here. Or call 800-342-9647. 

 

Health Care

You may see a reduction of hours at military clinics and hospitals. However, inpatient, emergency and dental care operations at TRICARE clinics will continue, as will TRICARE’s private sector operations. So you should still be able to see a non-military doctor if that provider is within the TRICARE system. 

If you have an appointment you made before the shutdown, TRICARE officials encourage you to call to confirm it. Your clinic’s hours may have changed since the shutdown. 

 

Travel Claims

TRICARE cannot process travel claims under TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Combat-Related Specialty Care during the shutdown. You can still file, a claim, but new claims won’t be approved until the shutdown ends. 

Congress Approves Paying Troops During Government Shutdown

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Some things are still sacred. Both houses of Congress have passed a bill to allow uniformed servicemembers to get paid in the event of a government shutdown on October 1. Previously, the paychecks of soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors were at risk in the event of an increasingly likely government shutdown. 

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives, however, unanimously passed a bill on Sunday morning approving their pay, and the Senate easily approved it on Monday afternoon. It now goes to President Obama for signature. 

The bill also allows the federal government to pay Coast Guard members, as well as AGR members – that is, reserve component members on active-duty status. The bill also pays select other employees in the DoD and Department of Homeland Security designated as providing services to military servicemembers. 

The bill, dubbed the Pay Our Military Act was sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and veteran of both the Army and Marine Corps.

The bill had four co-sponsors in the House – all Republicans: Jack Kingston of Georgia, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tom Latham of Iowa and Jackie Walorski of Indiana. 

Although the President has been disinclined to compromise thus far, with unanimous support in the house and nearly unanimous support in the Senate (the Senate passed it with a voice-vote, so no individuals are on the record opposed), Congress appears to have a veto-proof majority in this particular issue.


Prediction: 2014 COLA Will Be Between 1.3 and 1.7 Percent

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com cost of living adjustmentThe annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) used to calculate military base pay raises will fall between 1.3 and 1.7 percent this year. That’s a projection made by the Military Officers Association of America, which keeps a close eye on issues relating to pay and benefits in the military.

Congress normally bases the annual COLA adjustment on the change in the Consumer Price Index between June and September. The August CPI has been published already, and reflects an inflation rate of 1.5 percent, according to MOAA. There is one month remaining in the calculation period. MOAA makes their prediction based on the normal variance in the September number. If inflation is modest or negative in September, the COLA adjustment is likely to be towards the bottom of the 1.3 to 1.7 percent range. If inflation is higher than 1.5 percent annualized, then the COLA is likely to be towards the top of the range.

However, the Cost of Living adjustment will likely do little more than to bring servicemembers’ base pay even with what their take home pay was two years ago. This is because with the Social Security payroll tax holiday ending at the beginning of 2013, the base pay of the vast majority of American workers, including military, fell by two percentage points. The COLA increase for the year did not cover the shortfall. So unless the servicemember got promoted or got a time in service increase in pay, they experienced a net reduction in take home base pay.

As of this writing, the budget negotiations for FY 2014 are still in flux. There may be adjustments to other allowances as well, including housing allowances and even TRICARE premiums. We will continue to report on these issues as they come up.

Of most immediate import is a scheduled DoD budget reduction of some $52 billion, which will occur effective FY 2014 unless Congress intervenes with another budget or appropriations bill.

What could that mean for military families?

  • A sharp pullback in PCS moves.
  • Those leaving the military may have to fund their own moves back to their homes of record.
  • A rollback in bonuses
  • Cuts in personnel. Increased involuntary separations.
  • U.S. commissaries could be closed – forcing military families to pay more out of pocket for food.

 

A reduction of this magnitude will also affect budgets for exercises, training, spare parts, maintenance, and nearly every other aspect of the DoD budget.      

One plan proposed by the Stimson Center, for example, looks to slash military spending on benefits beginning in 2015, chiefly from cutting health care for retirees still of working age, reducing retired pay by $2 billion, and cutting off funding for commissaries.

Government Rolls Back Military Pay While Union VA Employees Get Big Bonuses

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com VA gives bonues while military pay is cutThe Pentagon is broke, say Administration officials, citing spiraling personnel costs that threaten to crowd out needed operational, infrastructure and modernization spending. So the Obama Administration, under former Secretary Leon Panetta and the current Secretary Chuck Hagel, has already tried to slash TRICARE benefits, and increase premiums. The have already tried to eliminate the Tuition Assistance program at three of the four uniformed defense services. They held military pay increases to 1 percent for 2014 – well below the 1.8 percent level normally called for by existing pay formulas. Now they are looking to slash military pensions for retired servicemembers and cut BAH rates, forcing military members to pay more out of their own pockets for housing – even as current on-base military housing – already inadequate even at post-cold-war levels, is allowed to decay.

But the Veterans Administration, apparently, is flush with cash. So flush, in fact, that the VA was able to grant lavish bonuses of tens of thousands of dollars to its government employees union work force. Bonus recipients include Michael Moreland, the administrator of the Pittsburgh, PA VAMC, under whose watch at least  five veterans died of legionnaire’s disease – a preventable illness brought about by unsanitary conditions. As many as fifteen other veterans were possibly or definitely infected at the hospital.

The problem wasn’t just in Pittsburgh, however: A GAO report found that a failure to implement precautions against the deadly disease was endemic at VA hospitals nationwide.

In all, more than two thirds of all the VA’s claims processing staff received bonuses totaling 5.5 million dollars in 2012, according to a Stars & Stripes report. Among others, bonuses as high as $50,000 and $60,000 went to construction managers who had significant delays and cost overruns on their projects, to physicians who left interns unsupervised during surgery and who were caught practicing without a license.

Per a report from USAToday,

According to a Government Accountability Office report recently issued, investigators found that during the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years:

  • A $7,663 performance-pay bonus went to a VA doctor who was reprimanded for practicing medicine with an expired license for three months.
  • A $11,189 bonus was given to a surgeon who was suspended without pay for 14 days after leaving an operating room before surgery was completed, allowing residents to continue unsupervised.
  • A $7,500 pay bonus went to a doctor who was reprimanded for refusing to see assigned patients in an emergency room, actions that forced 15 patients to wait six hours to be treated and led nine other patients to leave without treatment. 
  • An $8,216 bonus was paid to a radiologist whose privileges had been reduced for failing to read mammograms and other complex images competently. 

All told, bonuses to VA medical staff totaled $150 million in 2011 alone.

Meanwhile, backlogs of unresolved claims  – now finally starting to decline as an automated system comes online (though some observers believe that the decline happened as workers looking to maximize their bonuses front-loaded “easy cases” to boost case rate, while hard cases continued to decline, and while error rates skyrocketed.)

“You stated the VA ‘can and will do more to prevent future incidences,’” Wrote Representative Tim Murphy (R – PA), wrote in a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “While preventing the spread of infectious diseases should be a top priority for VA leadership, the department must also hold responsible those in a position of authority who did not adhere to the VA’s own directives and standards of care. And at the very least, the taxpayers should not be giving them bonuses.”

Uniformed military services personnel, of course, are not eligible for performance bonuses. They also have a less finely graduated pay scale that requires many service members to wait many years before receiving a pay increase based on a promotion, while federal employees even within a GS level can receive as many as 10 interim pay increases without being promoted just by getting bumped up the “step” system. 

Military members, also, are not unionized. The VA, on the other hand, has a largely union labor force – members of the American Federation for Government Employees, or AFGE. 

The net result, of course, is that the Administration would like to fund bonuses for union workers and bureaucrats at the expense of fighters and their families who already endure more hardship and receive lower compensation.