Last week, VA officials confirmed that they have reassigned two regional directors at the heart of the department's latest management scandal: Diana Rubens, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration's Philadelphia Regional Office, and Kimberly Graves, director of the St. Paul office in Minnesota.
For Rubens, that totaled almost $275,000 for a move from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, including losses related to the sale of her home. For Graves, it was nearly $130,000.
In both cases, investigators found that the women created vacancies within the department to give themselves opportunities for less work with comparable pay. Lawmakers have called for their firings and possible criminal charges.
But some lawmakers say that's not enough. In a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Monday, House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., called the decision not to fire the pair "disappointing" and the decision not to try and recoup the relocation funds "flabbergasting."
"VA aggressively pursues the recoupment of overpayment of benefits made to veterans … even when the overpayments are due to VA's own errors," Miller wrote. "I am sure you appreciate the lunacy of a policy that is stricter on veteran beneficiaries of earned benefits as compared to corrupt government employees."
Since the new positions will involve involuntary cross-country moves, both women can apply for a series of department relocation reimbursements, VA officials confirmed. Although the home-sale program has been suspended during a departmentwide review, the employees' other moving costs can be paid for with taxpayer dollars.
That incensed Miller.
"It seems VA's taxpayer abuse is never ending," he told Military Times. "Now we hear that VA leaders, who refuse to fire Rubens and Graves despite their proven corruption, are planning to reward them with a publicly funded move."
"The right way to deal with corrupt employees is to fire them," he said. "The VA way to deal with corrupt employees is to protect and coddle them."
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.