Judge reverses demotion of disgraced VA executive. No... really.

By this point I’m sure you’re all familiar with the case of Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens, the two VA senior officials who were found to have abused their positions for personal gain in plum job assignments and relocation fees. Despite the damning evidence which was revealed, they wound up being demoted rather than cut loose. (Because, as we were assured by the VA, you can’t fire your way to excellence.) We were also told that demotion was all that we should expect because the Justice Department concluded that they would not prosecute the pair for their actions. But hey… at least they were demoted and had their pay reduced, so in an agency where it’s virtually impossible to fire anyone that’s still better than nothing right?


What were we thinking? Of course that wasn’t going to stick.

The Merit Systems Protection Board has overturned the Veterans Affairs Department’s decision to demote Kimberly Graves, a former senior executive accused of using her position for personal gain.

The reversal means that Graves, the former director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s St. Paul, Minn., regional office, will be reinstated to the Senior Executive Service. An MSPB administrative judge issued the oral decision on Wednesday after a hearing in Chicago; the court transcript of the ruling should be available on MSPB’s website by Friday…

It’s not yet clear what the MSPB judge’s rationale was for reversing the department’s decision.

About now, some of you may be wondering what the heck the Merit Systems Protection Board is.

The Merit Systems Protection Board is an independent, quasi-judicial agency in the Executive branch that serves as the guardian of Federal merit systems…

The Board assumed the employee appeals function of the Civil Service Commission and was given new responsibilities to perform merit systems studies and to review the significant actions of OPM. The CSRA also created the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) which investigates allegations of prohibited personnel practices, prosecutes violators of civil service rules and regulations, and enforces the Hatch Act. Although originally established as an office of the Board, the OSC now functions independently as a prosecutor of cases before the Board.


Clearly there’s nothing wrong with an appeals board being established to provide a review of personnel actions. There are, no doubt, cases of wrongful termination from time to time and potential wrongdoing by government supervisors should be investigated. But what mystery did they solve in this case? Not only did the department make the shocking decision to demote these two women, but the IG had turned over a case indicating that they should be prosecuted for their actions. But now Ms. Graves has had her old pay scale restored and they may do the same for Rubens on Monday.

This is the federal government as it stands today and we seem to have run out of options. Even when abuse is identified, investigated and acted upon, nothing can be done without the willingness of the administration to police themselves. Findings of wrongdoing can be simply ignored if the Justice Department refuses to prosecute anyone, and internal quasi-judicial agencies can reverse any departmental punishment which does manage to be meted out.

Anyone have any other suggestions as to what to do? Because honestly, I’m tapped out.


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