VA reverses demotion of second disgraced official

On Friday we received the news that disgraced VA official Kimberly Graves had her demotion reversed and her former position restored after having been found to have misused her authority and soaked the taxpayers for tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulently obtained relocation expenses. At the time we noted that a decision was still pending on her colleague, Diana Rubens, similarly demoted over the same scheme. Well, in what I’m sure is just an incredible coincidence, the board responsible for conducting the reviews has found that poor Diana was unjustly punished as well. (Government Executive)

An administrative judge on Monday reversed the Veterans Affairs Department’s decision to demote Diana Rubens from her position in the Senior Executive Service to a lower-paying and less high-profile job.

The decision in the case involving the former director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Philadelphia office, comes just days after another Merit Systems Protection Board judge, in a separate case, overturned the agency’s decision to demote Kimberly Graves, former director of VBA’s St. Paul, Minn., regional office. The two have been at the center of a controversy over the department’s use of relocation incentives and reassignments of career senior executives, sparked by an inspector general report released in September.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson demoted Graves and Rubens formally on Jan. 6 from the SES to General Schedule jobs, and reassigned them to assistant director positions at the VBA’s Houston and Phoenix regional offices, respectively.

On Friday, aside from hearing that there was a “reversal” of the demotion, other details were scarce. Now that the deed is done they’ve come clean with a lot more of the procedural specifics. The obvious point is that both of the women will go back to the full (and very lucrative) pay scales they enjoyed before, but it gets even better than that. First of all, they will be entitled to demand back back starting on January 6 just to make sure that they don’t miss out on a single penny of their taxpayer funded income. But wait… there’s more! All of their legal fees incurred while fighting the case will now be paid for by the VA. (Which means that it’s being paid for by you if you happen to be a US taxpayer.) Oh, and they won’t have to give back the relocation money, obviously. Why would they?

The judge in this case went further than the one on Friday, explaining why the punishment was “unjust.” First of all, the Principal Deputy Secretary for Benefits and the Undersecretary, along with several other supervisors, signed off on the transfers and they weren’t punished, so it would be “unfair” to punish the ones who actually pulled off the scheme. Really? How often do people at the very top of the department dig into the fine details of every personnel action which is sent up the chain? If they had to do all that, why have any managers under you taking care of these things?

Also, the judge didn’t seem to like the look of the entire case.

“I find that there is a significant problem created by the inconsistent treatment of a comparable employee, and that this makes the penalty unreasonable under the circumstances,” said the decision issued by Chief Administrative Judge William Boulden in the Rubens case.

Again… really? If there’s “inconsistent treatment” going on as compared to other employees, does that mean you have more people who are pulling scams like this? And just because they weren’t punished, why start punishing people now that you’ve caught them, right? That would just be terribly unfair.

Is there any way to simply privatize the entire VA? Because at this point we need to just board the place up and shut it down.