Nearly a quarter of a million dollars. That's how much a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee was paid last year under a presidential program that recognizes exceptional performance on the job.
The government worker, a veterinarian, was paid $179,700 in base salary and given a $62,895 "service bonus" for distinguished performance, according to a database recently created to track the salaries of more than 1 million government workers. The well-paid employee was one of three federal workers to receive such a generous bonus, which is equal to 35 percent of base pay, according to the database, developed by the Asbury Park Press of New Jersey (via KUSA).
A review of the data identified more than a hundred workers who received bonuses in excess of $40,000. In total, federal workers were granted $439 million bonuses in 2011 under the program, which began in 1978 and grants bonuses based on two categories of exceptional service.
The top tier, known as "distinguished service," grants a 35 percent bonus to senior executives "who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time," according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The program is limited to 1 percent of senior executives, though they may qualify for a second category that grants a 20 percent bonus, and is limited to 5 percent of career employees.
News of the hefty government salaries -- as much as $398,322 for some lucky Veterans Affairs doctors -- outraged some.
"Excessive, far too excessive," taxpayer Gerald Molkenthin told Washington-based TV station KUSA. "No way, no way."
Nonetheless, the Federal Times reports that 2010 saw even more paid out --$482 million in bonuses was paid out that year.
For its part, the White House said that it's taken steps to reduce the amount in bonuses that federal workers are paid.
"The administration eliminated bonuses for all political appointees, directed agencies to adopt more rigorous personnel management processes, and set a cap to reduce spending on awards for career staff," White House Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Moira Mack told KUSA.
Analysis of federal workers salaries and bonuses showed that the Department of Veterans Affairs had the largest amount -- $67.9 million. The agency also employed 99 of the 100 top-paid federal workers, most of whom are physicians.
The database, known as DataUniverse.com, covers about 70 percent of federal workers, and doesn't include those employed by the White House, Defense Department, Congress and a handful of other agencies.
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