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2 Controversial VA Directors Back on the Job

VA officials Diana Rubens of Philadelphia, left, and Kimberly Graves of St. Paul, Minn., at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, Nov. 2, 2015. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)
VA officials Diana Rubens of Philadelphia, left, and Kimberly Graves of St. Paul, Minn., at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, Nov. 2, 2015. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON -- Two controversial directors involved in a hiring-system scheme at the Department of Veterans Affairs were back on the job Monday, after a decision to reassign them was overturned by an appeals board.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced the reinstatement of Philadelphia VA Regional Office director Diana Rubens and St. Paul (Minn.) VA Regional Office director Kimberly Graves. He visited Philadelphia to hold two town hall meetings with employees, according to an internal memo obtained by Stars and Stripes.

A VA Inspector General's report found that Rubens and Graves manipulated the hiring system to get moved to positions of lesser responsibility while maintaining the same salary. The VA disputed those allegations and instead found the women guilty of the less serious offense of not recusing themselves from the relocation process, in which they received about $400,000. The VA ordered the women demoted and reassigned.

However, the Merit Systems Protection Board overturned the VA's punishment, part of a growing battle between the federal employee appeals board and the department. The VA has also been at odds with the Inspector General's office, which Gibson said has issued findings not supported by evidence.In a statement released Monday, Gibson said his proposed disciplinary actions "do not diminish the confidence VA leadership has in the abilities of Ms. Graves and Ms. Rubens to manage their offices, lead their employees and provide benefits to Veterans.

"The disciplinary actions I took and any follow-on actions I may elect to take as a result of the initial actions being overturned, were based on the lack of judgment they displayed when they did not recuse themselves from the relocation decisions as quickly or as forcefully as they should have," he said. "Allegations of unethical behavior in the Inspector General report were not supported by any of the evidence I reviewed."

After the quasi-judicial board overturned the punishments for Rubens and Graves in January, it reversed the firing of Linda Weiss, director of the Albany-Stratton VA Medical Center in New York. The board ordered Weiss, who was accused of not responding to patient abuse, to be reinstated but Gibson has vowed not to implement the order.

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