WASHINGTON — Yesterday Chairman Miller wrote to VA Sec. Robert McDonald, urging him reconsider VA’s refusal to recoup more than $400,000 that two VA employees defrauded from the government. Today, Chairman Miller released the letter along with the following statement:
“VA’s handling of this situation effectively gives corruption and fraud among department employees an official VA seal of approval. Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves defrauded the government of a total of more than $400,000. An inspector general report proves this is the case. That’s why VA’s refusal to recoup the massive, taxpayer-funded relocation payments Rubens and Graves benefitted from is utterly inexplicable and downright indefensible. Such blatant fiscal irresponsibility and disregard for taxpayer money would be nearly impossible to believe if it had happened anywhere other than VA. By openly tolerating corruption of this scale, VA’s top leaders are only encouraging more dishonesty and fraud among the department’s workforce. That’s why I am calling on VA leaders to reconsider their decision and immediately take steps to recover this money on behalf of the veterans and taxpayers they are charged with serving.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
View the letter here.
The Daily Caller
Nov. 23, 2015
VA Office of Inspector General
September 28, 2015Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today Chairman Miller released the below statement regarding the lack of serious accountability for VA employees Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves. The VA inspector general made criminal referrals regarding Rubens and Graves after it found they had abused their authority, enabling them to rake in a total of more than $400,000 in taxpayer-funded relocation benefits.
“For those wondering whether VA is committed to real accountability for corrupt employees, VA leaders answered that question today with a resounding ‘no.’ When presented with the same set of facts regarding Diana Rubens’ and Kimberly Graves’ conduct, VA’s inspector general made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, while VA leaders went out of their way to allow Rubens and Graves to stay on the department’s payroll and preserve their retirements. Rubens and Graves clearly should have been fired. The fact that VA leaders refused to do so gives me no hope the department will do the right thing and take steps to recover the more than $400,000 taxpayer dollars Rubens and Graves fraudulently obtained. To add insult to taxpayers’ injury, VA rewarded Graves with a bonus of more than $8,000 just this year and department officials don’t even support commonsense legislation that would allow VA to recoup it. Because of the department’s failure to adequately hold employees accountable in this and many other situations, VA is being forced to tolerate corruption, malfeasance and incompetence within its ranks. As a result it remains under the shadow of perpetual scandal. The millions of American veterans who depend on VA and the hundreds of thousands of VA employees who are dedicated professionals deserve better than this broken status quo. But until VA leaders make a commitment to supporting real accountability – something they have refused to do thus far – efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
A simple solution to VA’s many problems
By Jeff Miller
More than 18 months after Americans were shocked and appalled by revelations of veterans dying while waiting to receive much--needed medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the VA’s problems are still far from fixed.
A steady stream of independent audits, media reports and congressional investigations prove this is the case. At the epicenter of the VA scandal in Phoenix, an Oct. 15 government report details how seven more veterans died after delays and lapses in care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. “Veterans still facing major medical delays at VA hospitals,” reads an Oct. 20 CNN headline. And after receiving information from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the VA Office of Inspector General recently made criminal referrals for two senior executives it says gamed the VA’s hiring system, enabling them to benefit from a total of more than $400,000 in taxpayer-funded relocation expenses.
American veterans and taxpayers are rightly asking themselves, “When will the madness at the VA end?” Former Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin offered a blunt answer to that very question last year when speaking about the intentional manipulation of patient wait times by VA bureaucrats. “Once someone loses his job or gets criminally charged for doing this, it will no longer be a game. And that will be the shot heard around the system,” he said.
Apparently, VA leaders weren’t listening to Griffin. In the wake of the biggest scandal in VA history, which centered on patient wait-time manipulation, the department has successfully fired just three low-level employees for manipulating wait times. Not a single VA senior executive has been successfully fired for doing the same. It’s a statistic that’s almost impossible to believe, considering the fact that 110 VA medical facilities maintained secret lists to hide long waits for care.
Until the VA rids itself of those who engage in scandalous behavior, the department will always be mired in scandal. But unfortunately, indefensible civil service rules that put the job security of failing VA bureaucrats ahead of the safety of the veterans they are charged with serving are prolonging the agency’s problems indefinitely. The VA’s highest-ranking benefits executive, Danny Pummill, perfectly described the issue during a Nov. 2 congressional hearing. VA is often stuck with problem employees because “the rules, the regulations, the protections are such that it’s almost impossible to do anything” to discipline most federal workers, Pummill said.
Pummill’s moment of candor was a drastic departure from the VA’s top leadership, who along with President Obama are actively opposing common-sense legislation the House of Representatives passed in July to tackle the VA’s accountability crisis head-on. The VA Accountability Act would simply give the VA secretary the authority to fire or demote any employee for poor performance or misconduct while protecting whistleblowers and limiting the amount of time employees can spend on paid administrative leave.
VA leaders — the same ones who have only fired three people for wait-time manipulation — have put forth a number of laughable arguments against this effort to increase accountability at VA. Among them is the canard that making it easier to fire failing VA employees will somehow make it harder for the agency to attract top talent. They have it backwards. Perhaps what’s really making it hard to attract top talent to VA is its notorious aversion to accountability.
As of mid-July, the department was struggling to fill nearly 41,000 open positions for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Faced with the grim prospect of working side by side with cold-hearted bureaucrats who chose to put veterans on secret waiting lists rather than providing them with the care they had earned, why wouldn’t medical professionals and administrators simply choose to work elsewhere?
A White House veto threat regarding the VA Accountability Act is even more ludicrous in its approach. It suggests that granting the VA the ability to quickly fire corrupt or incompetent employees is somehow unconstitutional. Let’s be honest. If you perform poorly in your job, you should be fired. To suggest that this basic tenet of common sense is somehow unconstitutional is completely absurd. The White House should be ashamed of itself for using such ridiculous logic in order to protect corrupt bureaucrats at the expense of veterans.
In order to field a winning team, the VA has to be prepared to cut its worst players. But time and again VA leaders and Obama seem unable and unwilling to do that. As a result, the department — forced to tolerate corruption, malfeasance and incompetence within its ranks — remains under the shadow of perpetual scandal.
The millions of American veterans who depend on the VA and the hundreds of thousands of VA employees who are dedicated professionals deserve better than this broken status quo. But until VA leaders and Obama make a commitment to supporting real accountability at the department, efforts to reform the VA are doomed to fail.
Miller has represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District since 2001. He is chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and serves on the Armed Services and the Intelligence committees.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 12:00 P.M. in room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, Chairman Jeff Miller will host a screening of the 30-minute film “Warriors Return” by Marcia Rock.
“Warriors Return” tells the story of five Navajo Veterans who served our country during World War II, Vietnam and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. They encountered challenges upon their return home as they had to confront the wounds of war while oftentimes traveling long distances to receive Department of Veterans Affairs health care. These problems were compounded by high unemployment, a lack of housing and alcohol abuse within their communities.
“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have a long history of distinguished service to their tribes and our nation. In screening this film, I would like to highlight the contributions of these veterans and remind people that Americans from all walks of life have played an important role in making our Nation the strongest on earth.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
The screening will be followed by a 30 minute question and answer session with Navajo veterans.
The following event is open to the press:
WHO: Chairman Jeff Miller, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye
WHAT: 30 minute movie screening of “Warriors Return” & 30 minute Question and Answer session
WHEN: 12:00 p.m., November 19, 2015
WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office BuildingRead More
WASHINGTON – Today the House passed two House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs-originated bills:
H.R. 1338, the Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study and report back to Congress on the problem of unclaimed remains of deceased veterans and also place a $2 million cap on Fiscal Year 2016 bonuses for VA senior executives.
H.R. 1384, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, would honor as veterans retired National Guard and Reserve personnel who have served 20 years and do not meet the full requirements for veteran status under title 38, United States Code.
The bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.
“Today the House took important steps toward ensuring deceased veterans are treated with respect and dignity, reining in VA’s outrageous, everyone-gets-a-bonus culture and honoring the service of National Guard and Reserve retirees. I applaud my House colleagues for supporting these important measures, and I call on the Senate to act on them as soon as possible.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
335 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515