October 27, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I understand that the Undersecretary for the Veterans benefits Administration, Allison hickey has resigned. What’s led up to her departure?

Joe R
Via the internet

Dear Joe
Recently Jeff Miller, Chairman of the house Veterans Affairs Committee followed up on a recent VA OIG investigation and released the following statement about the report on inappropriate use of position and misuse of relocation program and incentives in VBA.

“I am not surprised that the IG has confirmed our biggest fears about VBA’s relocation expenses program.The IG’s report proves that VA’s corrosive culture extends to the highest levels of VBA leadership and must be immediately rooted out once and for all. This report is simply the latest in a long line of investigations showing VA officials helping themselves instead of helping America’s veterans.

“Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves were placed in positions of authority and given the trust of the American people to properly serve the men and women who have served our Nation. They have violated that trust and must be held accountable for their actions. I expect the U.S. Attorney’s Office will consider the criminal referral and if warranted, I would expect all parties to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Additionally, I am examining whether VA officials misled the Committee at the hearing on April 22, 2015, regarding Ms. Rubens’ relocation.

“It is clear from this report that Under Secretary Hickey and others in VA leadership knew they could use fear, intimidation, and timely relocation incentives to coerce subordinates to relocate to jobs they didn’t apply for at the taxpayers’ expense. These VA managers knew what they were doing and it is clear that from day one that VA officials were using the relocation expenses program to enrich themselves. The actions of the individuals uncovered by this report are a discredit to VA employees and veterans.

“I am especially disappointed in Under Secretary Hickey and other senior VA managers for approving these moves since they were not done in the interests of VBA’s mission but were instead in the best interests of the individuals, and unfortunately once again veterans and taxpayers were left footing the bill. I encourage Secretary McDonald to utilize every tool available to him to ensure that these VA managers and leaders are immediately held accountable for their actions.”Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Shaft Notes
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Scholarship Fund recently earned recognition as a GuideStar Exchange gold participant for maintaining accurate and up-to-date information about the fund’s oversight, assets and impact.

GuideStar is a nonprofit database that gathers and disseminates information, including mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance and more, about every IRS-registered nonprofit organization.

“I am very proud of this recognition, and we are committed to demonstrating the highest standards of public accountability and stewardship of donor’s gifts,” said MOAA President retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan. “MOAA’s goal is to continue to provide this first-class educational assistance program for thousands of military children in 2016 and beyond.”

The MOAA Scholarship Fund, a public charity, has provided grants and interest-free loans of more than $130 million to more than 13,500 students since its inception in 1948. It is based on MOAA’s founding principle that “education is the cornerstone of a strong democracy” and is supported by donations and bequests from MOAA members and chapters and corporations.

The American Patriot Scholarship, established as a result of the terrorists’ attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, provides grants to students (under age 24) whose military parent – officer or enlisted – died while in active service (active duty, National Guard or reserve) to our nation or who is receiving Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI).  Approximately 190 individuals have received the American Patriot grants.

Donors may contribute to the MOAA Scholarship Fund at any time, through annual giving or estate-planning efforts (bequests, wills, trusts, IRAs). MOAA also offers a very competitive Charitable Gift Annuity program. Contributions are tax deductible under the provisions of §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. By selecting the most appropriate gift option, donors may maximize tax deductions while helping students achieve their dream of a college education.

For more information on the MOAA Scholarship Fund or to make a contribution, please visit MOAA’s website at www.moaa.org/scholarshipfund or email moaasf@moaa.org.

Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, voted in passage of H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act. This bill would reduce red tape at the VA, making it easier for the Secretary of the Veterans Administration (VA) to fire employees who fail in their duty to care for “those who have borne the battle,” while simultaneously making it easier to hire dedicated, and hardworking employees.

“Those brave men and women who return from serving our country should be able to receive timely access to quality care. I believe that most employees at the VA are dedicated to their duty and our nation’s heroes. However, wait times persist, and a culture of mediocrity has permeated the VA – too many employees perform terribly and yet, are not fired. Sometimes, these people even continue to collect bonuses while they are suspended,” Bilirakis said. “The only way to change the culture at the VA is to systematically remove the individuals who are failing our Veterans. Anything less is an affront to our nation’s heroes, and a slap in the face to those who have served.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that “it can take six months to a year (and sometimes significantly longer) to dismiss an employee.” The bill passed the House Committee on Veterans affairs by a vote of 14 – 10.


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