A Department of Veterans Affairs official who was demoted after allegedly stealing thousands of taxpayer dollars from the agency was quietly reinstated to her position earlier this week.
Kimberly Graves, former head of a VA regional office in Minnesota, appeared before the Merit Systems Protection Board Wednesday to appeal the VA's decision to strip her of her title in the wake of a scathing inspector general report. That report found Graves had pressured a colleague to leave his job so she could manipulate an employee relocation program and pocket nearly $130,000.
Diana Rubens, another VA official named in the watchdog report, will learn her fate Monday. Rubens was accused by the inspector general of creating a less-demanding position for herself at the VA's regional office in Philadelphia, then netting $274,000 in moving benefits to take the job.
The VA demoted both Graves and Rubens in response to the findings, although both officials took their cases to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which weighs personnel disputes at agencies across the federal government.
Lawmakers have pointed to the pair of high-profile cases as further evidence of the VA's refusal to hold its own executives accountable for bad behavior.
VA leadership, including Secretary Robert McDonald, has argued against legislation that would remove barriers to firing staff members.
However, other top agency officials have occasionally argued the VA's employee protections prevent terminating personnel in all but the most obvious of cases.
A bill designed to increase accountability at the VA was shelved in October, after Senate Democrats and the White House successfully characterized the legislation as unfair to federal officials.
McDonald has come under fire for declining to fire most of the officials involved in a nationwide effort to hide long delays in veterans' healthcare by creating fake patient waiting lists at 110 VA facilities. The fallout from the ensuing controversy cost his predecessor the agency's top job and led to a period of intense public scrutiny of the VA.
Even so, just three officials involved in the wait time scandal lost their jobs on McDonald's watch. Others were placed on extended paid leave or shuffled to different positions within the agency rather than punished for their activities.
McDonald has repeatedly declined to provide a reliable figure when asked how many employees he has removed for misconduct amid his many promises to clean up a perceived culture of corruption within the agency.