Two senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on allegations that they manipulated the agency’s hiring system for their own gain to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
St. Paul VA regional office director Kimberly Graves and Philadelphia and Wilmington VA regional offices director Diana Rubens, who refused to testify at the House hearings, were subpoenaed to appear before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee because the Department of Veterans Affairs did not allow the witnesses to show up to the first hearing.
The two high-ranking VA officials, who face criminal prosecution, told the House committee they were asserting their Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution to protect themselves against self-incrimination.
VA Officials Accused of Abuse of Taxpayer Funds
According to the Associated Press report, “An inspector general report from Sept. 28 found that two VA officials abused the relocation program to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. To successfully take advantage of the program and receive extra money during a time of salary caps in the department, the two officials pushed subordinates out from their positions and subsequently applied for those newly open positions, so that they could then receive generous expense accounts during the move, in addition to bonus incentive funds.”
It is alleged that Rubens and Graves received more than $400,000 taxpayer dollars for relocation expenses. The inspector general has now referred criminal charges for Rubens and Graves to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Columbia.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Miller Unhappy with Lack of VA Cooperation
Not only did the two officials refuse to testify at the hearing to investigate the abuse of taxpayer funds, but Philadelphia and Wilmington VA regional offices director Diana Rubens, reportedly told her VA employees that the hearings were just a “show” and a “joke.”
That flippant attitude, the lack of cooperation by the Department of Veterans Affairs leading up to the hearing and the two VA officials refusing to testify was not going over very well with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman GOP Rep. Jeff Miller.
Miller was said to be furious and “sick and tired” of the VA’s lack of cooperation as the department refused to release testimony to the committee members in advance of the hearing, but on the day of the hearing, the department gave a two-sentence summary.
“I want to make it clear that requiring these individuals or any individual to appear before us today is not done to embarrass them as some have asserted,” Miller said Wednesday at the hearing. “They are here before us today because they are the subjects of this damning report, which was completed at this committee’s request.”