Legislation introduced this week by House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL) would give the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to recoup relocation expenses paid to the agency’s employees.
The pertinent section of the bill (H.R. 4138) reads:
The Secretary may direct an employee of the Department [VA] to repay the amount, or a portion of the amount, paid to or on behalf of the employee under title 5 for relocation expenses…
It does note, however, that before any such repayment, the employee is given notice and an opportunity for a hearing conducted by another department or federal agency.
Miller is introducing the legislation in response to recent news that two demoted executives at the VA were given tens of thousands of dollars in questionable relocation bonuses.
Miller said that Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, the VA executives in question, defrauded the government of the money and asked VA Secretary Robert McDonald to take the money back.
In a strongly worded statement, Miller said:
VA’s handling of this situation effectively gives corruption and fraud among department employees an official VA seal of approval. Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves defrauded the government of a total of more than $400,000. An inspector general report proves this is the case. That’s why VA’s refusal to recoup the massive, taxpayer-funded relocation payments Rubens and Graves benefitted from is utterly inexplicable and downright indefensible. Such blatant fiscal irresponsibility and disregard for taxpayer money would be nearly impossible to believe if it had happened anywhere other than VA. By openly tolerating corruption of this scale, VA’s top leaders are only encouraging more dishonesty and fraud among the department’s workforce. That’s why I am calling on VA leaders to reconsider their decision and immediately take steps to recover this money on behalf of the veterans and taxpayers they are charged with serving.
Miller also recently sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonald asking him to reconsider the decision to allow the payment of the funds to Rubens and Graves and also wanting to know the VA’s legal basis for not pursuing the matter.