Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sparred with the Department of Veterans Affairs this week over a law that redirects money from employee bonuses to a program designed to help veterans who have opioid addictions.
Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary at the VA, said in a letter to Miller on Monday that the bonus-cutting legislation "defies logic" because it restricts incentives at a time when the agency is attempting to make big changes.
"In the midst of a massive transformation ... where attracting and retaining the best people is a top priority, capping awards and bonuses for our best performers is precisely the wrong step for Congress to take," Gibson wrote, asking the House to "begin work immediately to repeal" the provisions.
The law in question, called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, passed both chambers of Congress and was signed by President Obama in July 2016.
Miller, a vocal critic of what he has characterized as the VA's lack of accountability, noted in a letter Tuesday the bill received months of debate and scrutiny before becoming law.
"Never once in this long, public process did the administration criticize Congress for including the offsets you propose to repeal," Miller wrote.
The Florida Republican argued that "a limitation on VA employee awards and incentives offered the best option for redirecting limited resources towards immediately impacting the lives of fragile veterans suffering from addiction."
"[T]he bottom line is we felt strongly that facilitating the recovery of veterans suffering from addiction was far more important than bankrolling employee bonuses," Miller added.
The VA has weathered fierce criticism for offering its employees taxpayer-funded bonuses amid a wait time scandal that officials partially blamed on a lack of funding.