A local Veterans Affairs official is accused of benefiting personally and financially after arranging her own transfer from the East Coast to Minnesota, and claiming thousands of dollars in moving expenses.
Kimberly Graves, the current director of the St. Paul Regional Benefit Office, and another high-level official with the Veterans Benefits Administration are accused of using their position of authority to orchestrate new job openings for themselves, and then volunteering to fill them, a statement from the VA's Office of Inspector General says.
Graves' reassignment resulted in "a significant decrease in job responsibilities", yet she retained her salary of $173,949. Graves also claimed $129,467.56 in expenses associated with her move to Minnesota, the statement says.
Federal regulations do not allow the VA to reduce her annual salary upon reassignment, but the agency is looking into whether to require the women to repay relocation costs and what – if any – administrative action should be taken against them, the statement says.
The Office of the Inspector General has also referred the two cases to a federal prosecutor for possible charges, the Star Tribune reports.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., called the accusations "outrageous" in a statement, saying "VA officials manipulating the trust and placing their own personal benefit before the needs of veterans is unacceptable," KSTP reports.
This investigation began in March when members of the House and Senate committees on Veterans' Affairs requested the Office of Inspector General investigate allegations concerning financial benefits and preference given at the VA following an anonymous tip.
The investigation also found that in several cases Veterans Benefits Administration management moved senior executives as a method to justify annual salary increases and paid moving expenses for these employees. The Inspector General's Office is now calling for increased oversight when it comes to relocations and associated expenses.
This is the latest arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs to come under scrutiny in recent months. The Veterans Health Administration has been criticized after dozens of patients died while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals.