- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether the director of the Philadelphia benefits office illegally arranged her own reassignment to the position.

The report by Linda Halliday, deputy inspector general of the VA Office of the Inspector General, said the reassignment resulted in a “significant decrease” in Diana Rubens’ job responsibilities but she retained her annual salary of $181,497.

The report said the available evidence indicated that another director appeared to have been “inappropriately coerced” to leave the position to create a vacancy, and Rubens was a in a position that allowed her to effect the transfer and therefore misuse her position for personal benefit.

“We found that Ms. Rubens inappropriately used her position of authority for personal and financial benefit when she participated personally and substantially in creating the Philadelphia VARO vacancy and then volunteering for the vacancy,” the report said.

The report also recommended that department officials consider administrative action and consult with attorneys to determine whether Rubens should be billed for $274,019 in relocation expenses.

The Philadelphia office couldn’t be reached after hours Monday and a listed number for Rubens couldn’t be found Monday night.

Federal officials said in July that nearly a dozen employees in the VA office could face discipline over their handling of a backlog of benefit claims. The VA inspector general’s office said last spring that Philadelphia staff had neglected mail, altered claims dates and reviews and made $2.2 million in duplicate benefit payments as it tried to reduce backlogs. Halliday in April testimony before Congress described the Philadelphia office as the worst her office had seen, citing a “blatant disregard of policies.”

The VA said in a statement emailed Monday night that the department concurred with the report’s recommendation, and officials “will conduct a 30-day review of all incentive and relocation procedures” in the department.

“In addition, VA will consider all the evidence presented by the IG, collect any additional evidence necessary, and take appropriate accountability actions,” the statement said.

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