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Another Horrifying Twist in the VA Saga

Even though a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens abused their positions as Senior Executive Service (SES) officials and manipulated the employment system for their own benefit, two separate judges have overturned each woman’s demotion and pay cut.

I’ve blogged about this before because it horrifies me – these two women, Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens, are literally being paid a combined $400,000 for deplorable actions. In both cases, according to the VA’s OIG, Ms. Graves and Ms. Rubens effectively forced out other senior officials so they could take over their jobs – with hefty relocation expenses.

The embattled VA finally seemed to be doing something to hold these officials accountable – they demoted them and effected a pay cut, citing poor judgement and creating a perception of impropriety. It would have been great if they could have been publicly fired, but hey – Government jobs are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The VA also forwarded its OIG report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges. That office declined to prosecute and returned the report to the VA for any disciplinary action.

Now, however, both women have been vindicated (a word they do not deserve) by two separate judges at the Merit Systems Protection Board, which examines disciplinary action taken against Government employees. This means that these women felt entitled to protest their pay cut, which in and of itself is insulting to tax payers.

Both judges stated that technically, neither Ms. Graves or Ms. Rubens violated any laws. They also put a lot of stock in the fact that they acted under the blessing and consent of higher-up officials (one of whom resigned over this scandal). As written by the judge in Ms. Kimberly Graves’s proceeding, “It was not something Ms. Graves hid from them as far as her involvement with [her predecessor’s] reassignment. . . They not only endorsed the actions when they happened, but they continue to endorse the actions.”

Also, it mattered greatly that these higher-ups, including Acting VA Under Secretary for Benefits, Danny Pummill, had not been disciplined by the VA. As noted by the judge in one proceeding, “If Ms. Graves is going to be disciplined for failure to exercise sound judgement by creating the appearance of impropriety, then it would only be reasonable if any other [SES] members … involved in the same situation were disciplined as well.”

Here’s a hypothetical. Robbers are scavenging your home, and they scatter when police arrive. Two of seven are caught. The police say, “Oh, well – I guess we’ll let these two go. It’s not fair to these robbers that the others got away. And since they’re already holding your jewelry, we’ll let them keep it.”

Here, not only are Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens not being punished because higher-ups in the food chain were ignored in the disciplinary process, but they’re being allowed to keep the money. Ms. Rubens’s judge also ruled that she’ll receive interest on the back pay found “owed” to her (due to the demotion). Meanwhile, veterans wait years for a decision on their entitlement to service-connected disability compensation, and they don’t get interest or penalties.

Another horrifying twist in the continuing VA saga.

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6 Responses to “Another Horrifying Twist in the VA Saga”

  1. Because her bosses said it was okay, then it was? WTF are those judges smoking? Every Post-Nuremburg Human knows what malarkey that is! Fire those judges, take their licenses because you can’t level of stupidity with a bar license! Craptastic at its best!!! I’m absolutely disgusted.

    • I believe the logic is the Government cannot engage in “disparate treatment” by disciplining two employees differently for the same bad conduct. A discrimination of sorts.

      My thought, however, is that each case must be adjudicated individually based on those facts (without considering how others were treated), because otherwise folks like Graves and Rubens won’t be held accountable when all the elements of misconduct are there, and also because you’ll never be able to get equal punishment across the board.

      • They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and their logic is twisted. I agree, they’re argument is that the system isn’t perfect and since it can’t perfectly carry out justice on ALL wrong doers it should punish NO wrong doers. As a tax paying citizen I have a REAL issue with this.

  2. I am deeply saddened after reading the latest event about this example of the Department of Veterans Affairs putting the veterans last and with disregard. What is the department Secretary and CEO/Cmdr n Chief doing to address the root causes of these major failures of the dept?

  3. Where in the Constitution are government jobs protected? I need to look it up.

    • Here’s a good overview on it: http://employment-law.freeadvice.com/employment-law/firing/public_sector.htm. Certainly not reading I enjoy. Issue is, this has been cited time and again as a reason why government employees keep their jobs, and they’re so very rarely terminated in practice, but the law itself doesn’t make them bulletproof. Here, if the VA had punished everyone equally and properly, conceivably these two could have gotten their comeuppance.

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