A recent audit completed by the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reveals millions of dollars intended for the recruitment and retention of VA employees landed in the pockets of undeserving officials.
In the recently released report, there were an estimated 238 employees who received relocation or retention bonuses but did not fulfill the requirements of the bonus. Of these, the VA enforced reimbursement requirements for less than half.
Additionally, the VA awarded “relocation incentives” to 19 senior executives – all of which the OIG deemed improper. For instance, Philadelphia VA Regional Office Director Diana Rubens collected $300,000 to move from Washington D.C to Philadelphia – where her family resided. St. Paul (Minn.) VA Regional Office Director Kimberley Graves was involved in a hiring scheme that allowed her to keep a headquarters-rated salary and take the $130,000 relocation to an area with a lower cost of living.
Shockingly, the VA was ordered by a judge to keep both officials on board. The judge reasoned that previous VA employees were allowed to remain after similar unethical behavior and that it would be unfair to go against precedent – not discouraging news for current employees who are considering a bonus scheme of their own.
Over the last few years, VA officials across the country manipulated the incentives program to award themselves lucrative bonuses. The OIG anticipates that without reform, these problems will continue and cost an additional $3.6 million to taxpayers through 2019.
The abuse of these funds – which are meant to increase the quality of veterans’ care – is just another example of mismanagement and negligence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before the VA is allocated any additional tax payer dollars, officials should stop lining their pockets and be forced by Congress to finally put veterans first.
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