Congress has issued subpoenas to five Veterans Affairs Department employees after they failed to show up and testify before a House panel on Wednesday in connection with a damning inspector general report alleging misuse of authority and a VA relocation program. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, said he asked on Oct. 1 that the five -- former Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, Diana Rubens, director of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Regional Office, Kimberley Graves, director of the St. Paul, Minnesota Regional Office, Antione Waller, director of the Baltimore Maryland Regional Office and Robert McKenrick, director of the Los Angeles Regional Office -- to testify on the IG allegations. "As you can see, their seats are empty and apparently they will not appear at today's hearing," Miller said. The hearing stems from a VA IG report that concluded Rubens and Graves used their positions to push the former Philadelphia and St. Paul regional directors out of their jobs so they could fill them. The report also found they improperly benefited from a relocation assistance program that provided them hundreds of thousands of dollars to move to their new locations. Rubens had been a deputy under secretary for field operations until she took over as director for Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Philadelphia in June 2014. Graves, formerly director of the Veterans Benefits Administration's Eastern Area Office (now called the North Atlantic District) took over as director of the St. Paul, Minnesota, position in October 2014. Acting VA Inspector General Linda Halliday told lawmakers Wednesday that the Justice Department is currently reviewing the IG's findings, which it forwarded to the department for possible criminal charges. McKenrick, who was transferred from Philadelphia to the Los Angeles regional office, told the IG he was told to take the LA position or lose his job. Waller reluctantly left as director of the St. Paul regional office for the Baltimore position after Graves' subordinate told him his name had already been given to VA Secretary Bob McDonald for the job and he was expected to take it. Acting VA Inspector General Linda Halliday told lawmakers that VBA used reassignments through its job change and relocation assistance programs as a way to increase senior executive salary pay during a time when SES salaries were frozen and bonuses halted. "During an interview, we asked [Hickey] if salary increases and relocation incentives were a way to get around pay freezes and bans on performance bonuses," Halliday said in her testimony. "The Under Secretary stated that the salary increases were about ‘level-setting pay.'" Hickey also said the increases and incentives were more about resetting base pay to get everybody into "a more even, more fair model," Halliday told the House panel. Hickey resigned her job last week amid growing pressure from lawmakers and veterans groups for allowing Rubens and Graves to move into their new jobs and benefit from the relocation program that saw Rubens pick up $274,000 in moving assistance and Graves $129,000. Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.
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