The inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs has opened an investigation into why the director of the Philadelphia regional benefits office was given a $288,000 “relocation payment” to move from Washington, D.C. last year.
Diana Rubens was awarded that hefty sum to make the 140-mile move from her previous job in Washington, D.C. where she served as the agency’s deputy undersecretary for field operations. She oversaw 57 regional benefits offices in that position.
Florida U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, sent a letter to VA inspector general Richard Griffin on March 10 asking for an investigation into Rubens’ payout and to the agency’s policies regarding such payments. Miller also alleged in the letter that Rubens is being paid a senior executive service-level salary despite her current position being “two levels below her Central Office pay grade.”
Miller wrote in a separate letter to VA Sec. Robert McDonald that the “outrageous” payments are especially troubling given the agency’s scandals revolving around its inability to provide care to sick veterans.
Griffin responded on Friday.
“The OIG is reviewing the documentation regarding the propriety of expenses associated with Ms. Rubens’ move from VA Central Office to the Philadelphia VARO. When that review is complete, we will provide you the results,” Griffin wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller.
Griffin’s office will also conduct “a risk assessment of the controls and activities related to permanent change of station relocations Department-wide that occurred in fiscal year 2014.” (RELATED: VA Official Was Paid $288K In ‘Relocation Payments’ To Move 140 Miles)
While federal agencies routinely help employees cover the cost of house-hunting, moving, terminated leases and temporary housing, Rubens’ payment was $274,000 more than what the VA typically pays out.
Records show that in fiscal year 2009, the 755 relocation awards it paid averaged $12,485. In 2010, 762 relocation awards averaged $11,951 each. And in 2011, 789 awards averaged $13,047.
Housing costs don’t seem to have been the issue. Property records from Alexandria, Va. show that Rubens sold her home last July to Stone Financing for $770,000. Stone Financing sold it at an apparent loss last month for $692,500. Rubens bought a house in Havertown, Pa. in September for $589,000.
Rubens was paid more than $181,000 in base salary last year. She has also received other controversial payments in the past. She was given $97,000 in bonuses between 2007 and 2011 even though claims processing times doubled to 325 days on her watch.