Two VA senior executives invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at a congressional inquiry Monday into claims they pushed lower executives out of jobs that they then took over.
Diana Rubens, director of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Regional Office, and Kimberley Graves, director of the St. Paul, Minnesota Regional Office, plead the Fifth more than a half dozen times to questions from House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida.
The two are now facing disciplinary action under the provisions of the Accountability Act Congress passed last year to fast-track firings of VA employees for misbehavior or incompetence, Danny Pummill, principal deputy undersecretary for benefits, told lawmakers.
“They are now in the appeal process,” Pummill said. “At the end of seven days, we can tell the committee what the punishment was.”
In addition to securing positions they wanted, the two also allegedly benefited improperly from a relocation assistance program that provided them with hundreds of thousands of dollars to move to their new jobs, according to the VA’s Office of the Inspector General.
Pummill said department lawyers advised that he could not divulge the disciplinary action being recommended until the appeal period ends.
Miller excused the women from the hearing after about 30 minutes, when it was clear they were not going to answer questions.
The IG has made criminal referrals to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia based on the actions “orchestrated” by Rubens and Graves.
NAUS Note: We applaud House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leadership and members for their bipartisan work to address the serious and widespread issues at all levels of the Department. But where’s the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on these scandals and outrages that negatively affect care of the nation’s veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs.