Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is so frustrated at the most recent scheme to defraud taxpayers at the Department of Veterans Affairs that he’s asking the Department of Justice to launch an investigation.
Blumenthal serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He’s outraged at revelations that two VA officials, Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, essentially forced subordinates to transfer positions, so that Rubens and Graves could apply for the newly vacated positions and receive generous relocation benefits. Rubens and Graves accepted $403,000 worth of relocation payments in total. (RELATED: Two VA Officials Targeted In Federal Probe Over Relocation Payout Scheme)
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Blumenthal noted that corruption surrounding relocation expenses has spiraled out of control. Not only did the VA inspector general uncover misconduct by Rubens and Graves, but the investigation revealed that their behavior is a relatively common trend.
“According to the [VAOIG] report, the Veterans Benefit Administration spent about $1.8 million for 23 relocations during the past three years – and according to the report, these relocations were used “as a means to justify annual salary increases” for the senior executives, who sought to create positions as a way to exempt themselves from the salary freeze in effect at VA,” Blumenthal wrote. “Veterans deserve the accountability that can only come from DOJ acting upon the evidence and information it has now received.”
The reason Blumenthal thought an extra letter to Lynch was warranted is because federal prosecutors usually shy away from pursuing criminal activity highlighted by the VA inspector general. This even applies to the recent scandal of wait list data manipulation, since as of June 30, the DOJ has declined to move forward with 43 out of 55 investigations.
But this time, the offense is too egregious. Even though the VA OIG has referred the cases to the DOJ, Blumenthal wants to make sure that the department acts this time on the evidence it has received.
“This scheme to defraud taxpayers and manipulate the system is, unfortunately, only the latest example of unacceptable misconduct by VA employees,” Blumenthal said in the letter.
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