- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In an unusual move, the Department of Veterans Affairs has suspended two senior managers from its Philadelphia office after a government watchdog exposed their roles in a party where employees were encouraged to pay a medium to contact the dead.

The VA said Lucy Filipov, the office’s assistant director, and Gary Hodge, director of the huge pension management center in Philadelphia, were “temporarily relieved” — with pay — while it investigates the incident. Mr. Hodge’s wife, Loretta, a medium who goes by the name of “the Angel Whisperer,” was paid by VA employees at the party in June 2014.

The agency has been roundly criticized by whistleblowers and lawmakers for failing to hold managers accountable for poor performance and outright fraud in a variety of scandals that have hit the VA in the past year.

The Philadelphia office has come under increasing scrutiny since an Inspector General’s report earlier this year found widespread problems, ranging from chronically delayed benefits claims, to falsified records and lost mail, to reprisals against whistleblowers.

An IG report last week found that Ms. Filipov invited VA employees to the party at her home for readings at $35 apiece by Mrs. Hodge. The report criticized her for misusing her position to compel subordinates to pay for a service and recommended that she undego an “ethics refresher” course.

Ms. Filipov was acting director of the Philadelphia office at the time.

This spring, a top VA official in Washington said Mr. Hodge was being transferred temporarily to the central office because the agency needed his “expertise.”

The IG report found that Mr. Hodge failed to report his wife’s income as a medium on his financial disclosure forms and tax returns for a three-year period. The matter was referred to the IRS and state tax agencies.

Rep. Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania Republican and a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement that it was “about time anyone at the VA is held accountable for anything.”

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