Times Staff and Wire Reports

The Veterans Affairs Department handed out $24 million in bonuses to thousands of employees over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances, the agency's inspector general reported.

The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook," as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008.

The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the inspector general said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan's family and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Duncan could not be reached for comment.

The VA said it was extremely concerned and would review the findings thoroughly.

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