February 23, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
What is the status of the two high level VA employees who were disciplined for inappropriate use of their positions to gain moneterry and preferential job treatment?

Ben O.
Via the internet


Dear Ben
Chairman Miller of the House Veterans Affairs Committee recently released the below statement regarding a judge’s ruling that reversed VA’s attempt to discipline employee Kimberly Graves. A September 2015 VA Inspector General report found that Graves and fellow VA employee Diana Rubens had abused their authority, enabling them to rake in a total of more than $400,000 in taxpayer-funded relocation benefits.

“The outcome of this case is a slap in the face to the many dedicated VA employees who do the right thing on a daily basis. In a twist of tragic comedy, VA’s attempt to discipline Kimberly Graves was undone by its refusal to discipline other employees involved in this scandal. 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. Over the years, VA leaders have repeatedly insisted they have the tools they need to hold employees accountable. This case proves those assertions are false, and it’s well past time for VA and Obama administration officials to be honest with the American people about the government’s massive accountability problem. Time and again, Congress has tried to make it easier for VA to discipline poorly performing employees, yet incredibly the department and the administration have fought us at nearly every turn. Enough is enough. Every objective observer knows that the federal civil service system coddles and protects misbehaving employees instead of facilitating fair and efficient discipline. And until VA and Obama administration leaders acknowledge this problem and work with Congress to solve it, it will never be fixed. That’s why over the next few weeks, I intend to personally engage VA Sec. Bob McDonald in the hopes of obtaining his support and assistance in fixing this problem once and for all. For the sake of all the taxpayers and federal employees who are continually failed by this dysfunctional status quo, I hope he is willing to cooperate.”

Shaft Advance
Crossover, Delegate Rich Anderson (R – Prince William), Co-chairman of the General Assembly Military and Veteran Caucus, recently briefed the House of Delegates Republican leadership on the status of veterans legislation in the 2016 General Assembly Session. He outlined Republican priorities to ease the transition of military personnel into civilian life and private sector careers, support for veterans’ education and training programs, veterans services, and healthcare. Also in attendance were 17 of the 19 veteran Republican Delegates.

Delegate Lingamfelter (R- Prince William and Fauquier Counties) praised this coordinated approach to veterans’ issues by the House Republican Caucus. Said Lingamfelter, “For me, it’s a very personal issue as I am a veteran, and I know what veterans go through. The veteran community has long known that the Republican Party stands solidly in their corner, both on the battlefield and when they return home from the battlefield. Veterans’ issues aren’t something we support just in a campaign season; rather, it’s at our core when it comes to taking care of those who are ready to give their last full measure of devotion to the nation.  It’s just that simple.”

The House considered 45 separate bills to support veterans and their families; 22 of the bills were introduced by veteran Delegates. Overall the House passed 27 of the bills to include several of the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Services Organizations (JLC) top priorities.  The JLC represents 23 Veterans Services Organizations, with over 250,000 members, to include the America Legion, VFW and MOAA.

Most significant was the passage of the JLC’s number one priority – two new care centers (one in NOVA and one in Hampton Roads). In addition, the House passed legislation to bridge the transition to health care careers for former military medics and corpsmen, a bill to provide dedicated veteran advisors at our Community Colleges, and a bill to provide tax exemption for veteran charitable organizations.

Republican Delegates also submitted eight Budget Amendments for veteran programs. Four of the eight were submitted by veteran Delegates. These amendments are now in the House Appropriations Committee which is finalizing the House budget.

Delegate Lingamfelter brought forth multiple pieces of legislation meant to help veterans and veterans’ service organizations this session, one of which is House Bill 63; a bill that would provide exemptions from sales and use tax and local license taxes for certain nonprofit veterans organizations. HB 63 has passed the House of Delegates and has most currently been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Another veteran-friendly bill that Lingamfelter sponsored is House Bill 240, which seeks to help our homeless veterans obtain a state-issued identification card, in order to enable these veterans to access the available federal, state, local, and other resources they need to attain financial stability or address other issues that have adversely affected their lives. HB 240 has also passed the House and has most recently been referred to the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.

The Military and Veterans Caucus members at the Update included  Delegates Rich Anderson (R-Prince William), Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Jeff Campbell (R-Smyth), Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), Chris Collins (R-Frederick), Mark Dudenhefer (R-Stafford), Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), (R-Poquoson), Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell), Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), Jackson Miller (R-Manassas),  Todd Pillion (R-Washington), Nick Rush (R-Montgomery), Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach), and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach).   Delegates: Gordon Helsel (R-York) and Rick Morris (R-Isle of Wight) were unable to attend the Update.


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