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(WASHINGTON) — Department of Veterans Affairs officials improperly approved nearly $11 million in bonuses to senior executives intended for other workers, a department watchdog said in a new report.

The money was recently allocated by Congress and intended to be used to recruit “critical skill” employees but ended up in the hands of senior executives in the VA’s central Washington office, according to an inspector general’s report posted Thursday.

The funds, authorized by the Pact Act, were meant to be incentives in hiring and retaining specialists needed to process billion in new benefits for veterans dealing with health issues from being exposed to burn pits. Agent Orange and other toxic hazards.

The IG report said the money was paid instead as bonuses to more than 180 senior executives last year, with several taking home more than $100,000.

The average bonus paid out was over $55,000, the report said.

The Washington Post first reported the results of the inspector general’s investigation.

The IG said the improperly approved bonuses were due, in part, to breakdowns in leadership and controls at multiple levels of the VA.

The IG recommended the “Secretary of Veterans Affairs or his designee takes appropriate action to determine whether individuals involved in the decision-making process … had any actual or apparent conflicts of interest and develop a process to ensure all decision-makers are free from conflicts when awarding future incentives.”

When Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in September ordered the executives to return the money, most did or agreed to do so, but 19 have challenged having to repay the bonuses, the IG report said.

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