House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller lambasted Department of Veterans Affairs officials Tuesday for an "almost non-existent" level of accountability within the agency following a recent scandal.
"Today's announcement from VA that no one will be seriously disciplined for wasting more than $1 billion on a failed construction project and that a few executives might receive a weak slap on the wrist or a temporary written warning for a relocation scandal that cost taxpayers more than $400,000 is more proof of this sad fact," Miller said in a statement late Tuesday.
The Denver hospital replacement project is known as "the biggest construction failure in VA history," and its cost has tripled from its original budget.
The VA also announced Tuesday afternoon that four leaders at the Veterans Benefits Administration who practiced "poor judgment" over a relocation issue would receive suspensions and be reprimanded for their misuse of taxpayer funds.
"We have already reinstated Diana Rubens and Kim Graves to their positions as Regional Office Directors and I have been encouraged by their immediate effort to get back to work. Ultimately, that is what these decisions are about: getting back to the work of serving America's Veterans," VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said.
But Miller disagreed with the department's decision to reinstate some of those employees.
"One thing is clear: this dysfunctional status quo will never change until we eliminate arcane civil service rules that put the job security of VA bureaucrats ahead of the veterans they are charged with serving," Miller said.
Miller, a Florida Republican who will retire at the end of the year, called for the Senate to take up the House-passed VA Accountability Act. The bill would give the VA secretary the ability to fire or demote employees for poor performance and would protect whistleblowers.
"If the Senate doesn't follow suit with similar legislation to do the same thing, it is illogical to think VA's many problems will ever be fixed," Miller concluded.
This story was corrected to clarify that the four officials involved in the relocation funds scandal were not involved in the Denver hospital scandal.