When the bar is set way low, everybody can be a winner. Never mind all those wait-listed veterans looking for medical help. This is an embarrassing and shameful spectacle, and nobody in the government seems to be too concerned about it.
All of the 470 senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs received annual ratings over the last four years indicating that they were “fully successful” in their jobs or even better, according to data released at a congressional hearing on Friday, despite delays in processing disability compensation claims and problems with veterans’ access to the department’s sprawling health care system.
None of the department’s senior executives received either of the two lowest of five possible job ratings, “minimally satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” in any of the past four fiscal years.
The data also showed that in 2013, nearly 80 percent of the senior executives were rated either “outstanding” or as having exceeded “fully successful” in their job performance, and that at least 65 percent of the executives received performance awards, which averaged around $9,000. Only about 20 percent received the middle of the five ratings.
Veterans Affairs officials sought to play down the data, saying that only 15 senior executives across the entire federal government had received either of the two lowest ratings in the most recent year — suggesting that the high ratings enjoyed by V.A. officials were not out of line with those of their counterparts at other government agencies.
But the data, which were a focus of a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, angered lawmakers who said they provided further evidence that the highest reaches of the department were out of touch with problems in the system and that there was a lack of accountability for poor management.
“Do you think that’s normal in business, that nearly every executive is successful?” Representative Phil Roe, Republican of Tennessee, asked Gina S. Farrisee, the department’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration. “That means you put the bar down here, so anybody can step over it.”
Representative Ann McLane Kuster, Democrat of New Hampshire, likened the numbers to grade inflation and said they reminded her of Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, where “all of the children are above average.”