Several weeks after two senior VA officials took the Fifth Amendment and did not answer questions before Congress, lawmakers and veterans groups expressed outrage this weekend as the VA demoted the pair instead of firing them over charges that they wrongly used their positions for personal financial gain.
“This is an insult and disgrace to all veterans,” said Dale Barnett, the head of the American Legion.
“Any promises that VA officials make about accountability in the future need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Barnett added.
At issue were the actions of Diana Rubens and Kim Graves; investigators found the two had pushed two regional directors in VA out of their jobs – forcing them to accept a new post in a different city – and then filled those positions themselves.
Investigators found that Rubens and Graves then obtained several hundred thousand dollars in moving benefits, as their new jobs placed them more closely to their families.
“Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves were in positions that allowed them to effect these transfers and, therefore, misused their positions of authority for their own personal benefit,” investigators wrote in a report issued earlier this year.
Before Congress, Rubens and Graves had nothing to say about the charges.
“For those wondering whether VA is committed to real accountability for corrupt employees, VA leaders answered that question today with a resounding ‘no,’ said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans Committee.
Rubens and Graves did not go unpunished, as the VA demoted the two, placing them in other lower level jobs, which will pay less.
But that wasn’t enough for Congressional overseers.
“Rubens and Graves clearly should have been fired,” Rep. Miller said, who fumed that efforts in Congress to force major reform inside the VA seem to be flagging.
“But until VA leaders make a commitment to supporting real accountability – something they have refused to do thus far – efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail,” Miller said.