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A 9 News Now investigation into federal bonuses could result in a congressional hearing.

Our reports have been controversial because the data bank we used is public information and on line--in fact we posted it early Tuesday morning on wusa9.com.

Click here to see if your federal payroll information is included.

The data bank has the names, bonus and payroll information for about 70 percent of the federal work force.

Our review identified 439-million dollars in such bonus payments for 2011, and in 16 cases individual federal workers receiving bonuses in excess of $60,000.

At the Department of Agriculture, only one of its workers earned the top $62,895 bonus.

That's in addition to his $179,700 salary.

A spokesman identified the employee as the federal government's top veterinarian, but declined our request to profile how he qualified for the bonus.

We identified 15 other federal workers earning the nation's top bonus at Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, NASA, and Departments of Interior, Health and Human Services, EPA, and Commerce.

They all received the bonus as recipients of the Presidential Rank Awards.

The awards were established in 1978.

On the Office of Personnel Management website, it says winners are strong leaders, professionals and scientists selected by a board comprised of private citizens looking for strength, integrity, and industry. Winners get a lump sum of 35 percent of their annual salary.

According to a Administration source, less than one in 10,000 federal workers qualify for the award.

Stephen Losey, a reporter at WUSA sister publication Federal Times said the award has received criticism for lack of transparency.

"We don't know what makes these people so special," Losey said. "Presumably, they're the cream of the crop."

Shortly after we first published our bonus investigation on WUSA9.com, even before our broadcast aired Tuesday night, discussions on bonuses were already beginning her on Capitol Hill.

"We need to probably look at dictating some guidelines in order for the award of bonuses," said Rep Dennis Ross, R-Florida, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce. "I think we have to bring it to the table and have as witnesses those supervisors who oversee the authorization of these bonuses and find out why they're given."

Ross said supervisors who approved bonuses may be called before Congress to explain standards.

In addition to a pay freeze, a White House Spokeswoman said President Obama has ordered restrictions making bonuses tougher to get, smaller in size, and elimination of some bonuses altogether.

Our analysis of 2011 bonuses showed overall, award payments were down more than $40 million.

You can follow Investigative Reporter Russ Ptacek on Twitter.com/russptacek or Facebook.com/russptacek, or e-mail 9 Wants to Know at tips@wusa9.com.

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