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VA's Failure to Demote Executive a 'Tragic Comedy,' Lawmaker Says

Kimberly Graves appeared as a witness at a Nov. 2, 2015 hearing before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. A judge has dismissed her recent demotion by the VA. (AP/Molly Riley)
Kimberly Graves appeared as a witness at a Nov. 2, 2015 hearing before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. A judge has dismissed her recent demotion by the VA. (AP/Molly Riley)

The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Friday slammed an administrative judge's ruling that reinstates a Department of Veterans' Affairs official who was demoted for allegedly maneuvering a lower-ranking employee out of a job so that she could fill it.

Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida, said Kimberly Graves' successful appeal of her demotion from director of the agency's Philadelphia regional office is an insult "to the many dedicated VA employees who do the right thing on a daily basis."

The department demoted and reassigned Graves for playing a role in the transfer of the St. Paul, Minn., regional director in 2014 and then taking his place. The VA Office of Inspector General alleged she forced Antonio Waller to take reassignment at the Baltimore office.

The VA said her action created the appearance of impropriety, according to the ruling released on Friday by the Merit System Protection Board.

The department also demoted and reassigned Philadelphia regional director Diana Rubens for the same reason, after alleging she used her position to move Robert McKenrick from that job and accept transfer to the Los Angeles office.

Rubens testified before an MSPB judge in Philadelphia on Thursday. A ruling in that case should be released on Monday.

In Graves' case, Chief Administrative Judge Michele Szary Schroeder dismissed the VA's disciplinary action on the grounds the department unfairly applied a standard to Graves that it did not to one of her direct supervisors, whom the IG also implicated in the transfer approvals.

Although the VA set a deadline to consider action against Under Secretary for Benefits Danny Pummill by Dec. 31, 2015, Graves pointed out that nothing had been done as recently as this past week.

Miller called the ruling "a twist of tragic comedy [as] VA's attempt to discipline Kimberly Graves was undone by its refusal to discipline other employees involved in this scandal."

He added, "By now there should be no doubt whatsoever that our federal civil service system is in need of drastic reform. And as long as there is a system in place -- that requires a similar burden of proof to discipline federal employees as it does to send criminals to prison -- these problems will only continue."

--Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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Headlines Department of Veteran Affairs Congress Bryant Jordan

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