As essential background, please read this excerpt from the Veterans Administration’s inspector general’s report regarding “Inappropriate Use of Position and Misuse of Relocation Program and Incentives,” from last fall:
As part of our assessment of VA’s relocation expense program (PCS program), we reviewed records related to the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) reassignment of 7 General Schedule (GS) Grade 15 employees who were promoted to Senior Executive Service (SES) positions and 15 SES employees who moved to different SES positions in fiscal years (FYs) 2013, 2014, and 2015. VBA management used moves of senior executives as a method to justify annual salary increases and used VA’s PCS program to pay moving expenses for these employees. Annual salary increases totaled about $321,000, and PCS relocation expenses totaled about $1.3 million. Additionally, VBA paid $140,000 in unjustified relocation incentives. In total, VA spent about $1.8 million on the reassignments. While we do not question the need to reassign some staff to manage a national network of VAROs, we concluded that VBA inappropriately utilized VA’s PCS program for the benefit of its SES workforce.
Ms. Kimberly Graves was reassigned from her position as the Director of VBA’s Eastern Area Office to the position of Director, St. Paul VARO, effective October 19, 2014. VA paid $129,467.56 related to Ms. Graves’ PCS move. We determined that Ms. Graves also inappropriately used her position of authority for personal and financial benefit when she participated personally and substantially in creating the St. Paul VARO vacancy and then volunteering for the vacancy.
Mr. Antione Waller, former St. Paul VARO Director, told us Ms. Graves initiated discussion with him about relocating to the Philadelphia VARO. Once he expressed a willingness to accept the reassignment, she did an apparent “bait and switch.” She told him that the Philadelphia position was no longer available and he would be considered for the Baltimore VARO Director position. When he said he was not willing to move to Baltimore, Ms. Graves told him, “you will probably get another call, this probably won’t be the last conversation about Baltimore.” In an email, Ms. Beth McCoy, who at the time was the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations and Ms. Rubens’ subordinate, told Ms. Graves that she spoke to Mr. Waller and told him his name was already submitted to the VA Secretary for Baltimore, so “saying no now is not a clean or easy option.” Once the St. Paul Director position was vacant, Ms. Graves said she contacted Ms. Rubens and said, “I’d like to throw my name in for consideration for St. Paul … I feel like I’ve done my time and I’d like to put my name in.”
Ms. Rubens’ and Ms. Graves’ reassignments resulted in a significant decrease in job responsibilities, yet both retained their annual salaries—$181,497 and $173,949, respectively. Based on Federal regulations, we determined VA could not reduce their annual salaries upon reassignment despite the decrease in the scope of their responsibilities. However, a senior executive’s annual salary can be reduced if the individual receives a less than fully successful annual summary rating, fails to meet performance requirements for a critical element, or, as a disciplinary or adverse action resulting from conduct related activity.
We made criminal referrals to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Columbia, regarding official actions orchestrated by Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves. Formal decisions regarding prosecutorial merit are pending. We provided 12 recommendations to VA to increase oversight of VA’s PCS program and to determine the appropriate administrative actions to take, if any, against senior VBA officials.
Got that? Graves gamed the system to reduce her responsibilities while keeping her salary, and received almost $130,000 in taxpayer money as moving expenses, which, as the rest of the IG’s report documents, are routinely inflated by the VA. As a result of the report, Graves was demoted—not fired, mind you, as you or I would be if we tried a stunt like this in a private company, association or non-profit— as head of the VA regional office in Minnesota. Then she was reinstated last week, after appealing her demotion to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which weighs personnel disputes at agencies across the federal government. It decreed that she couldn’t be disciplined under current employee protection rules. I haven’t read the decision, but my guess would be that since the system doesn’t explicitly prohibit what she did, she can’t be punished for it. Thus she keeps her job, her salary and the “relocation expenses.”
Here are just some of the important questions this sequence helps to answer:
Why is the VA claiming that its budget is insufficient to care for or veterans?
Why is the VA so atrociously managed?
Why are federal agencies so inefficient?
Why is the federal budget out of control?
Why does the debt keep rising?
Why is it insane to trust other federal bureaucracies, subject to similar employee protection with high level managers like Graves in many positions of influence, to have power over more and more of our lives?
Why have so many departments and agencies during the Obama Administration—the IRS, the OPM, the Secret Service, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Education Department, Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, the Justice Department, and many more but I’m tired of typing now—displayed spectacular negligence, incompetence and/or corruption with little or no accountability and with few if any employees disciplined?
Why are federal employees so arrogant?
Why is the public so cynical that it shrugs off every scandal, botch and lie with the sentiment, “What do you expect?”
Why has trust and respect in the federal government reached historic lows?
Why are so many disgusted citizens being drawn to either a blow-hard, narcissistic, tough-talking business executive or a crackpot crypto-Communist who promises to overhaul the entire system?
Pointer and Source: Washington Examiner