You have to give the VA credit where credit is due, even if the VA was a day late and a dollar short when it finally did something about two corrupt senior executives in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Maybe the VA is finally beginning to understand the concepts of: “Better late than never” and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
This is a clear case of better late than never, and there is absolutely no doubt that the VA had to try again. The case has dragged on for five months and the VA totally bungled its first attempt to discipline two corrupt VA senior executives who had been caught red handed when they tried to manipulate the VA’s reassignment and relocation system to their own financial advantage.
Last September, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) found that two of the VA’s senior executives, Diana Rubens, the director of the Veteran’s Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Office in Philadelphia, and Kimberly Graves, the director of the VBA’s Regional Office in St. Paul, Minnesota, had “inappropriately used their positions of authority for personal and financial benefit” by arranging the transfer of subordinates whose jobs they wanted and then volunteering for the vacancies.” Rubens and Graves had coerced two VA regional office directors who worked for them to leave their jobs so that Rubens and Graves could fill those jobs themselves because they wanted to move to those locations. They also wanted to collect the lucrative relocation allowance.
Their stupid stunt enabled Rubens and Graves to transfer out of their more demanding jobs as director of a Veteran’s Benefits Administration Regional Office, but it allowed them to retain their senior executive salaries, and it also allowed them to receive special relocation pay totaling more than $400,000. Needless to say, after this scandal, the VA has suspended the relocation program.
But the VA didn’t do anything about the scandal until Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and asked her to have the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the unethical behavior of the two Department of Veterans Affairs executives.
In November, the VA demoted Graves and Rubens and reassigned then to new posts as deputy directors in different cities at lower pay. However, military.com reports that both women apparently maintained five-figure salaries.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Naturally, both women appealed their demotions, and their transfers were delayed pending the outcome of their appeals. Then, during the appeals process, the VA counsel discovered that the VA had botched the disciplinary action the first time around. In December, the VA counsel realized that during the appeals process the VA had only provided four of the five evidence binders that the VA had collected on the case to the attorneys for Rubens and Graves. As a result of the mistake, the VA had to rescind the demotions and the transfers of Rubens and Graves, and start all over again, not only the punishments but on the appeals process too.
Now military.com reports that the after botching its first attempt to discipline Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, the VA has finally demoted the two executives because of what they did. However, the VA has issued a statement which says that Rubens and Graves can now submit new appeals of their reassignments to the Merit Systems Protection Board. So we haven’t heard the end of this story yet. Both women could appeal their demotions again, and in the meantime they keep drawing their four figure salaries.