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Chairman Miller: The VA’s Incompetence Knows No Bounds

On December 9, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to address a recent scandal plaguing the VA – the VA’s failure to hold senior executives accountable for abusing the agency’s relocation program.

While my blogs are never cut-and-paste from other articles, this week I want to pass along Chairman Jeffrey Miller’s comments on the relocation scandal and the VA’s handling of it, as I believe they clearly and eloquently capture what many of us are thinking. They also contain facts I have not seen in other articles on this subject.

On November 20, following the VA’s announcement that the senior executives would not be fired and the VA would not seek recoupment of the $400,000 they allegedly fraudulently obtained from the relocation program, Mr. Miller released this statement:

“For those wondering whether VA is committed to real accountability for corrupt employees, VA leaders answered that question today with a resounding ‘no.’ When presented with the same set of facts regarding Diana Rubens’ and Kimberly Graves’ conduct, VA’s inspector general made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, while VA leaders went out of their way to allow Rubens and Graves to stay on the department’s payroll and preserve their retirements. Rubens and Graves clearly should have been fired. The fact that VA leaders refused to do so gives me no hope the department will do the right thing and take steps to recover the more than $400,000 taxpayer dollars Rubens and Graves fraudulently obtained. To add insult to taxpayers’ injury, VA rewarded Graves with a bonus of more than $8,000 just this year and department officials don’t even support commonsense legislation that would allow VA to recoup it. Because of the department’s failure to adequately hold employees accountable in this and many other situations, VA is being forced to tolerate corruption, malfeasance and incompetence within its ranks. As a result it remains under the shadow of perpetual scandal. The millions of American veterans who depend on VA and the hundreds of thousands of VA employees who are dedicated professionals deserve better than this broken status quo. 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.”

On December 3, following the VA’s announcement that it botched the disciplinary process for the senior executives by failing to provide them with all the information regarding their punishment during the notice period (requiring the process to start over), Mr. Miller released this statement:

“It seems VA’s incompetence knows no bounds. After VA Dep. Sec. Sloan Gibson repeatedly expressed concerns that our committee’s legitimate oversight efforts could jeopardize these disciplinary proceedings, VA seems to have sabotaged this case all on its own. This is yet another example that proves VA is nowhere near as focused on accountability as it should be. By now, it’s clear to nearly every objective observer that VA’s top officials don’t know how to properly discipline employees. What remains unclear, however, is whether they are even interested in doing so. Yet until VA leaders make a commitment to supporting real accountability – something they have refused to do thus far – efforts to reform the department are doomed to fail. This is an absolutely egregious mistake, and right now it’s incumbent upon VA leaders to do two things: explain to taxpayers, veterans and Congress who will be held accountable for this failure and outline its plan for finally getting serious about accountability at the department.”

Miller is right about everything but one thing: the VA is not incompetent. It is so beyond incompetent, it needs a new word for “incompetent.” (Suggestions welcome!). Know, however, that I am referring to the VA as the bureaucratic monster that it is – many of the folks I work with who are employed by the VA are helpful, hard-working, and genuinely care about helping veterans. It is only a shame that these are the ones who are strangled by red tape.

Access the hearing and a wealth of other information here.

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7 Responses to “Chairman Miller: The VA’s Incompetence Knows No Bounds”

  1. Thank you Sarah for your perspective on this truly egregious matter. Incompetence at the VA has reached an all the high. I can speak to this very matter. In March, 2008 I relocated from Washington DC to Bay Pines VA /@ St. Petersburg, FL. As part of my relocation package which is standard in the Government, the VA paid for moving my household goods, and would assist in selling my Maryland residence. 2008 was a terrible year for real estate, everybody was upside down. When I arrived at my duty station and applied for the real estate assistance that was a written part of my “PCS Orders” I was advised by the VA’s contractor that ran its relocation program , that the “VA has too much real estate in its inventory and cannot honor my need, unless I came up with $40,000 in 10 days otherwise it will have to withdraw its offer to buy my residence”. It withdrew its offer to me, but the relo benefits that so many others have capitalized on kept going under a different VA contract. So its selective!
    Bottom line, I’m very disappointed in the VA as I have other stories. We’ll talk
    Jake

    • I wish I could say I’m surprised…….

    • Jake, I feel bad for you. The relocation benefits are a standard government program when you move at the convenience of the government. If they were part of your orders, regardless of the contractor issue, I would think the VA still owes you the assistance the program is supposed to provide. Of course, it may be too late to help now, but at least you’re out of Baltimore and in Florida! I’m still stuck in Maryland…

  2. What happened with the criminal complaints? Can the criminal judge fix what the VA messed up in sentencing?

  3. How about “uncompetent” or “subcompetent” as words indicating worse than “incompetent?”

  4. Why are these folks not being tried and executed for High Treason? At least put them under the UCMJ that is required of even lowly E-1’s.

    Seriously – why are their actions *not* classified as High Treason?

  5. Substitute “Presidential” for “incompetent”.

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