Casey: Moreland Award As Legionnaire’s Outbreak Occurred Should Spark Reevaluation of Procedures by Administration

High Level VA Officials Received 35% of Pay as Bonus Even As Pittsburgh Veterans Battled Legionnaire’s Outbreak

Casey: Moreland Award As Legionnaire’s Outbreak Occurred Should Spark Reevaluation of Procedures by Administration

Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough urging the Administration to reevaluate its policy for prestigious government service awards like the one received by Michael Moreland, Director of VISN-4 within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even as a Legionnaires’ outbreak was occurring at the VA Pittsburgh Health System (VAPHS) Moreland was given a 35% bonus and awards. An Inspector General’s report found serious deficiencies in how the VAPHS dealt with the outbreak, which resulted in the death of six patients.

“The VA Pittsburgh Health System failed its patients during the Legionnaires’ outbreak. The idea that someone directly involved in the region’s VA system could be given a substantial award and bonus is troubling,” Senator Casey said. “I’m urging the White House to reexamine how these awards are given out and institute a final review process to ensure that those being selected for this type of recognition are truly deserving.”

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:   

Dennis McDonough
Chief of Staff
Office of the Chief of Staff
The White House

Dear Mr. McDonough:

I wanted to write today to express my concern about both the process used to determine who should receive the Presidential Rank Awards within the Senior Executive Service and the level of bonuses they receive.  As you know, Congress established these awards in 1978 to recognize those individuals who exhibit extraordinary service.  There are two categories: the Distinguished Executives who receive 35 percent of their annual salary as a bonus and the Meritorious Executives who receive 20 percent of their annual salary as a bonus.

I became concerned with the process in place when it was announced that Michael Moreland the Director of VISN-4 within the Department of Veterans Affairs had received the Distinguished Executive award after being nominated by Secretary Shinseki.  While I understand Mr. Moreland was given this award for his implementation of the liver and kidney transplant program along with a program to reduce incidents of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), he also was in charge during the recent outbreak of Legionnares’ Disease that resulted in the deaths of five veterans and a subsequent report from the VA Office of the Inspector General noted systemic failures by the VA Pittsburgh Health System that Mr. Moreland oversees.  Accordingly, I request that the review process for nominees be changed to allow for a final check shortly before the award is made to ensure the individual truly is worthy of this award.

Second, I would request a thorough review be undertaken to determine if bonuses of 35 percent of an individuals’ salary is appropriate.  While I share the administration’s commitment to reward and honor our most distinguished civil servants, I question the need for such levels of compensation.  It’s my understanding the minimum rate of basic pay for Senior Executive Service members is $119,554.  35 percent of that is $41,843.90.  The annual mean wage according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $45,790, not much more than the baseline bonus one would receive with this award.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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