Michigan Veterans Attorney Comments on Justice Department’s Failure to Prosecute VA Executives
Feb 24, 2016
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) February 24, 2016 – Federal prosecutors ruled against pursuing criminal charges against two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials who faced accusations of defrauding the agency for $400,000 and manipulating its hiring system for their own benefit.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in December declined the VA inspector general’s request for a criminal investigation against Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens. The Department of Justice said it “referred the matter to the VA for any administrative action that is deemed appropriate.” However, Florida Rep. Jeff Miller raised questions about why charges would not be pressed against the officials.
“Letting misbehaving employees off the hook by sparing them from even minimal punishment does little to prevent such fraudulent behavior in the future,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan-based veterans attorney. “The VA is too fixated on defending its lack of accountability. Persistent wrongdoing within the department takes away from valuable time and resources that should be spent on veterans instead.”
The VA watchdog released a report in September saying that Graves and Rubens forced subordinates to agree to job transfers against their will. The two VA officials then filled the vacancies themselves, while maintaining their original salaries despite having fewer responsibilities. According to the report, Rubens and Graves obtained more than $400,000 in moving expenses through a relocation program meant to ease the strain of moving VA employees between cities.
Both worked as heads of regional offices for the Veterans Benefits Administration. Rubens had been earning $181,497 in Philadelphia, while Graves received $173,949 in St. Paul, Minnesota. In November, the VA chose to demote Rubens and Graves instead of firing them. However, a paperwork error resulted in the two officials being spared from demotion. The VA had said it would resume the disciplinary process after the problem was resolved.
On January 8 the agency said that it finally demoted Rubens and Graves. The former high-ranking executives were given assistant director positions at other VA regional offices. The VA released a statement saying, “These actions were originally initiated in October 2015 but had to be redone to correct an administrative error.”
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