The official in charge of human resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs faced pointed questions from lawmakers while trying to explain Friday why a high-ranking executive who falsely claimed she’d earned a master’s degree received tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses.
Rep. Dina Titus, Nevada Democrat, expressed concern at a House hearing Friday about Sheila Cullen, the director of the VA’s Sierra Pacific Network. In 2009, the VA’s Office of Inspector General told VA officials that Ms. Cullen had lied multiple times about having a masters degree she never obtained.
The Washington Times first reported on the investigation last month.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, sent a letter last week to the VA demanding to know why Ms. Cullen was still awarded bonuses even after officials found out about the falsified educational credentials.
“She rose all the way through the ranks to be the director … and that’s an enormous task overseeing tens of thousands of veterans that stretches all the way from Guam to Reno,” Ms. Titus said, questioning whether VA officials vetted resumes. “This woman received these bonuses as she moved up the ladder.”
Gina Farrisee, VA’s assistant secretary in charge of human resources, told the committee she’d only learned about Ms. Cullen’s case about a week ago.
The Times previously reported that Ms. Cullen listed herself as a graduate student when she first joined the VA in the 1970s, but investigators said other forms filled out over the years showed she’d earned a master’s degree even though she had not finished her graduate studies.
Investigators for the IG’s office said Ms. Cullen told them that she didn’t know how the degree ended up in personnel forms and that she wasn’t sure who wrote her resume.
In a letter to VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson last week, Mr. Miller called the explanation “laughable.”