- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

Due to a paperwork mix-up, the demotions of two high-ranking officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs has been put on hold and will have to be reissued once the paperwork is sorted out, the agency said Thursday.

In the wake of a VA inspector general report saying that Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves of the Veterans Benefits Administration had manipulated the agency’s hiring process to secure for themselves sweetheart job transfers, the VA announced in November that the two employees were being demoted.

They went from being senior executives — the highest career employee rank —to being general workers.

Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves “exercised their statutory right to appeal their demotion” and the appeals process would put on hold their geographic reassignments to their lower-paying jobs, Ryan Hedgepeth, VA oversight director, said in a statement.

An agency lawyer had discovered that one of five binders of evidence supporting the demotion hadn’t been given to the employees.

“To rectify this omission, the department must rescind and reissue the proposed demotions and afford the employees the opportunity to respond to the additional supporting evidence,” Mr. Hedgepeth said. “This process is now underway.

Ms. Rubens was deputy undersecretary of the VA’s Washington headquarters prior to her shift to the Philadelphia regional office, where she earned $181,497.

Ms. Graves had been director of the VBA’s North Atlantic region, and shifted to the St. Paul, Minnesota regional office with a salary of $173,949. They will both be shifted to the VA central office.

In the process of moving to their new posts, they also collected about $400,000 in improper relocation benefits that the IG said should not have been paid out. The IG’s office recommended criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice.

Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has been calling on the VA to recoup the relocation expenses — a move the VA said it cannot legally make.

The botched demotions, he said, was another example that the VA was not focused on accountability.

“By now, it’s clear to nearly every objective observer that VA’s top officials don’t know how to properly discipline employees,” he said. “This is an absolutely egregious mistake, and right now it’s incumbent upon VA leaders to do two things: explain to taxpayers, veterans and Congress who will be held accountable for this failure and outline its plan for finally getting serious about accountability at the department.”

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