- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

A manager in the Philadelphia Veterans’ Affairs office misused her position to compel employees to pay for psychic “readings” by the wife of a VA colleague, who failed to report the income on his tax returns, a government watchdog said Thursday.

The VA Inspector General’s report said Lucy Fillipov, while serving as acting director of the Philadelphia VA office in 2014, “misused her title” to invite subordinates to a party where they could communicate with the dead through the wife of Gary Hodge, another VA official.

The medium goes by the name of “the angel whisperer.”

In an email to employees in April 2014, Ms. Filipov encouraged subordinates to attend the party at her house where Mr. Hodge’s wife “will be doing private readings, they are $35. We had to guaranty [sic] a minimum of 6 but I think we have those numbers. If you would like to bring someone with you please feel free. They don’t have to have a reading but could hang out and enjoy happy hour.”

She told another person in an email, “This is supposed to be more like ‘Teresa the Long Island Medium,’ less a psychic and more a talk to dead people kind of thing…”

The inspector general has referred the matter to the VA for possible disciplinary action against Ms. Filipov and Mr. Hodge, and recommended “refresher ethics training” for both. It also made a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, which declined to prosecute Mr. Hodge for making false statements on his tax returns.

And the government watchdog also referred Mr. Hodge’s case to the IRS and the Pennsylvania tax authorities for failure to disclose income from his wife’s fortune-telling business in 2013 and 2014.

Ms. Filipov told investigators that she considered the employees that she invited to the party “friends” rather than subordinates. But the IG report said the federal standards of ethical conduct prohibit “the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise” as well as coercing subordinates to pay for a product or service.

Mr. Hodge’s wife is a medium whose specialty, according to a website, is “communicating with deceased loved ones, spirit, intuitive counseling and messages from the angels.” Federal investigators interviewed all the employees who attended the event, and said most seemed unimpressed by the experience.

“The employees told us of their reticence with their paid psychic participation, and said that they generally wanted to participate, but exhibited some reservation,” the report said. “For instance, a GS-12 employee remarked that the party’s purpose was to meet the medium for readings, that she paid $30-$35 for the reading, but did not value the experience.”

Mr. Hodge, who is manager of the VA’s huge pension management center in Philadelphia, initially told investigators he didn’t know how much money his wife made as a medium. He later confirmed that she earned $6,960 in 2012; $12,850 in 2013; and $13,955 in 2014.

The report was the latest blow for the beleaguered Philadelphia office, which was the subject of congressional hearings this year into allegations of backlogs in veterans’ benefit claims, program mismanagement and falsified records.

The Philadelphia office is one of the VA’s largest, providing benefits and services to more than 903,00 veterans residing in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. The pension management center serves constituents residing in the 19 eastern states, plus Puerto Rico and all foreign countries with the exception of those in Central and South America. During fiscal 2012, the office disbursed over $4.1 billion in compensation and pension benefits.

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