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VA execs coerced 2 out of jobs they sought

| Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs manipulated the hiring system to coerce two managers to accept job transfers against their will — then stepped into the vacant positions themselves, keeping their pay while reducing their responsibilities.

The executives also gamed VA's moving-expense system for a total of $400,000 in what a new report by the agency's watchdog described as questionable reimbursements, with taxpayers paying $300,000 for one of them to relocate 140 miles, from Washington to Philadelphia.

Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves “inappropriately used their positions of authority for personal and financial benefit when they participated personally and substantially in creating opportunities for their own transfers to positions they were interested in filling,” the report released this week by Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday said.

Rubens and Graves kept their salaries of $181,497 and $173,949, respectively, even though the new positions they took as directors at regional offices in Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minn., had less responsibility, overseeing a fraction of the employees at lower pay levels. Rubens had been deputy undersecretary for field operations.

The inspector general's office has referred the cases to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution. But the report released this week implicates their bosses, too, criticizing Undersecretary for Veterans Benefits Allison Hickey and two of her deputies for encouraging the scheme.

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