Washington, D.C. (WUSA)--According to new payroll data reviewed by 9 News Now, the federal government paid about $439 million on bonuses to workers earning asmuch as$62,895 in individual 2011 awards.
9 Wants to Know worked with Gannett sister publication theAsbury Park Press which filed an open records request to obtain the salary information, which is public under federal law.
Our review identified more than a hundred workers with bonuses in excess of $40,000, and three at $62,895.
"Excessive, far too excessive," said taxpayer Gerald Molkenthin. "No way, no way."
"They seem high to me for your government federal employee, yeah," said taxpayer Jonathan Kurland.
We identified a total of $439 million in government bonuses.
"I believe about $43 million less than the previous year," said Federal Times reporter Steven Losey about the 2011 bonuses.
Losey analyzes government pay at our Gannett sister publication, Federal Times, and attributes the overall reduction to a White House order reducing bonuses.
"This data shows it's having some effect already," Losey said.
The White House declined an on-camera interview, but a spokeswoman said the President's elimination of bonuses for all political appointees and a pay freeze will save $3 billion by the end of this year.
"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," said White House Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Moira Mack. "On his first day in office, the President froze pay for senior White House appointees and thereafter froze pay for all employees government-wide for two years."
Many of the workers who received the high end bonuses we found were recipients of a presidential award program recognizing performance.
"Presidential Rank Awards recognize extraordinary long-term achievements," said Health & Human Services spokesman Bill Hall. "The President makes the final selections from among the nominees."
"If they did a very thorough job and was some type of checks and balances, I don't think that's a bad thing," said taxpayer Traci Brown.
We analyzed 1.3 million federal worker salaries and bonuses, finding the largest bonus pool, $67.9 million, at the largest employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A spokesman said the agency uses bonuses to "recruit, retain and reward positive performance."
"Few things we do impact the lives of Veterans as much as hiring, training and retaining the right people fully capable of serving our nation's Veterans," said VA spokeswoman Josephine Schuda in a statement. "In the past year, we tightened oversight of retention and incentive awards."
But averaging $214 a person, the VA didn't even make our list's top five for average individual bonuses.
The General Services Administration awarded the highest average bonus at over $1,000 Followed by the Departments of Energy at $545, Transportation at $415, Interior at $375 and Agriculture at $317.
A FAA spokeswoman said a $6 million dollar grievance settlement skewed bonus reporting at the Department of Transporation.
"Under the terms of the agreement, the FAA agreed to a one-time payment totaling $6 million that was distributed to current and former air traffic employees who worked at the facility," said FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown. "For accounting purposes, the payments were listed in personnel records as "cash awards."
In last place for bonuses, Department of Education workers averaged bonuses of $81 a piece.
On base pay, NASA pays most on average at over $112,000, followed by Transportation at $105,386, Energy at $102,860, Education at 101,146, and Housing and Urban Development at $93,346.
Department of Agriculture workers averaged the lowest wage at about $64,000
The list also identifies 100 of the nation's highest paid federal workers. 99 of those paychecks come from here at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA attributes that to medical pay up to $398,322 for a small percentage of its doctors.
"The number of physicians earning over $342,000 is 129 (0.62% of all physicians)." The statement from VA's Schuda said. "The average salary, plus special pay for physicians, is currently $204,477."
DataUniverse.com estimates the data covers about 70% of federal workers. The White House, Department of Defense, Congress and a handful of other agencies are not included.