Legion to VA: 'Demoted officials being rewarded'

Accountability at VA is a farce

25 Nov, 2015, 15:24 ET from The American Legion

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett lashed out today over continued revelations about paltry punishments issued to Department of Veterans Affairs executives who were found to have manipulated the travel and relocation bonus system to line their pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars.  "The lack of accountability displayed by VA leadership here is disgusting," said Barnett, who leads the nation's largest wartime veterans organization.  "These corrupt executives didn't face harsh consequences for their actions, they actually may have improved their economic worth."

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, VA Executive Diana Rubens will take a $20,000 pay cut from her salary of over $180,000.  But according to cost of living indicators, it only costs about $120,000 a year in Houston to maintain the lifestyle of a $180,000 salary in Philadelphia.  "She's still making out better on the deal," fumed Barnett, "even when you don't include the additional relocation package.

"It boggles the mind to see the level of protection VA employees have from their own wrongdoing when the very veterans they are supposed to be serving slip through the cracks, some of whom will sleep on the streets with empty bellies this Thanksgiving."

Barnett's reaction came after revelations in a Military Times article that the two demoted executives will still be eligible, according to VA regulations, for thousands of dollars of relocation expenses despite manipulating the relocation system for more than $400,000 that VA will not try to recoup as part of their punishment.

"It's crushing to see that the system still protects the wrongdoers, with seemingly impenetrable armor to shield them from responsibility while veterans are stuck outside waiting for medical appointments and suffering through an outrageous backlog just to be fairly compensated for injuries they sustained protecting America. To make matters worse, we also find out that the other VA official implicated in the relocation scandal, Kimberly Graves, is headed to Phoenix, as if veterans in that area haven't already suffered enough. The American Legion is extremely concerned about VA's habit of shifting problem employees around to other locations.

"VA's top management [Secretary Bob McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson] promised veterans that VA employees who wronged veterans would be held accountable, but cushy landing spots while still keeping leadership positions are barely a slap on the wrist.  I'm disgusted VA never went after these corrupt officials, or even tried to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars they manipulated out of the system. If this is the best justice veterans can expect in this system, it doesn't bode well for VA's promise to win back the trust of the veterans."

With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through nearly 14,000 posts across the nation.

Media Contact: Andrea Dickerson, (202) 263-2982 / cell (202) 417-4090 adickerson@legion.org; John Raughter, cell (317) 441-8847.

 

SOURCE The American Legion



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