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VA executives received $100M in bonuses as problems mounted

Executives and employees of the troubled Veterans Affairs health system enjoyed over $100 million in bonuses, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The federal government warned the VA in the past about the growing issue of excessive patient wait times and its detrimental effect on the health care system. Still, VA executives and employees received $108.7 million in bonuses over the course of three years.

Since 2005 more than a dozen reports have been released showing the negative impact of patient wait times at both the national and local levels. The VA said more than 57,000 veterans waited 90 days before seeing a doctor.

​Lawmakers in the House of Representatives Tuesday unanimously passed a measure that will suspend VA bonuses until 2016. Decorated war veteran Eric Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs after the outbreak of this information, and the agency put a hold on employee bonuses for 2014.

More than 2,300 providers – doctors, nurses, physician assistants – earned $500,000 or more from Medicare in 2012 from a single procedure or service, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data. A few of those providers, including an internist in Los Angeles and a dermatologist in Port St. Lucie, Fla., collected more from the single procedures than anyone else who billed for them — by very large margins.

The data release was prompted by a Journal legal effort to make the information public. This story is the first of a series, Medicare Unmasked, examining how payments are made in the roughly $600 billion Medicare system.

WyoFile is featuring a special investigative series, “The Two Elk Saga,” by former Los Angeles Times correspondent and regular WyoFile contributor Rone Tempest. Wyoming has a long history of uncritically embracing, then giving public money to, dubious and expensive energy projects. The proposed $2 billion DKRW Advance Fuels — coal-to-liquids — plant near Medicine Bow is the latest example. The aborted $100-million GE-UW High Plains Gasification project — which cost the state $7 million before GE abruptly backed out in 2011 — is another.

This Two Elk series, supported by grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and WyoFile founder Christopher Findlater, is an extensive case study of one such troubled project; its audacious Colorado-based promoter, and the state and federal officials who kept the project alive despite numerous warning signs that it was a scheme beyond saving. It is also a human story of dreams — outsized American dreams — and of one man’s ingenious but fruitless 20-year quest to build an energy empire in the heart of Wyoming coal country. In this regard it is an example of WyoFile’s continuing commitment to report fearlessly on the people, places and policies of our mountain state. Stories in “The Two Elk Saga” have appeared on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the series concludes on Tuesday, June 10

Part 5 runs today. Read the entire series here.

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said he bought a charity decades ago for $25, called it the Basic Faith Foundation and used it to hold money from real estate deals.

Horn said he gave the interest to Christian missionaries in Mexico and South America.

inewsource dug into the Basic Faith Foundation and into Horn’s own description of how he used it. Five experts with national reputations in tax law and nonprofit management reviewed the transcript of inewsource’s interview with the supervisor, as well as the supporting documentation from state and federal agencies.

All reached the same conclusion: the way Horn used Basic Faith violated both state and federal laws, civilly and possibly criminally.

Six lawmakers likely owe taxpayers money, following findings from our "Louisiana Purchased" investigation. And some have already written checks to return cash that they never should have collected. It's the latest report in a joint investigation of campaign finance by FOX 8 News and Manuel Torres of NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.

But that hasn't stopped some lawmakers from dipping into two pots of money at the same time, for the same expense.

Read the full story from WVUE - New Orleans and The Times-Picayune here.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has uncovered more problems in Richmond, California's public housing system. Two maintenance workers, who also live in public housing, were found to have double-billed for tasks, billed for more hours than were worked and charged overtime during their regularly-scheduled shifts. Overtime paid to the two workers totaled more than $125,000 over four years.

All time sheets from the two workers were approved by the appropriate officials and it is still unclear if the two men were deliberately abusing the system. 

The unsupervised spending in El Chaparral is symptomatic of a vast community aid effort with lax financial controls. A network of more than 70,000 community groups has received the equivalent of at least $7.9 billion since 2006 from the federal agency that provides much of the financing for the program, Reuters calculates, based on official government reports.

The money is part of a broad government effort called the "communal state" that steers funds to communities, primarily through an outfit called the Autonomous National Fund for Community Councils, or Safonacc. But exactly how much money passes through this system, who gets it and how it's used are largely a mystery.

Read the story here.

Despite the economic downturn, which saw a 1.3 percent decrease in the median salary of American households, sports revenue at public colleges and universities increased by 32 percent between 2008 and 2013. Spending on coaches salaries increased by 45 percent. 

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" took a look at the numbers and broke them down in a graphic, ranking schools by total revenue, expenses and amount of surplus.

The investigation focused on data from public schools obtained through open records requests. It is unclear whether there is a practice among athletic departments of padding expenses to obscure their bottom line. But at least some departments do give back to their schools, contributing a portion of their surplus back to the university's general fund.

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services explicitly offered $6,500 to a former state employee last year in exchange for her secrecy, according to documents obtained by the Des Moines Register.

The documents include a March 6, 2013, e-mail in which Department of Administrative Services attorney Ryan Lamb writes to an attorney representing former employee Carol Frank: "I am agreeable to changes you propose and offer $6,500 for additional term," referring to a stipulation that the settlement be kept confidential.

Read the story here.

A Detroit News investigation found about 1 in 4 Detroit landlords paid to rent to poor families through the state’s Housing Choice Voucher program collectively owe the city at least $5 million in back taxes and probably much more. Federal and state guidelines for the rental assistance — known as Section 8 — don’t require that all landlords pay.

Read the entire story here.

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