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tv   Hearing on VA Employees Relocation Program  CSPAN  November 2, 2015 7:30pm-9:46pm EST

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international rules, laws and norms. >> i realize the imbalance in the pacific is a national decision to make and yet you and the navy are responsible to make sure you can respond to whatever cause. a lot more stuff is happening in europe and a lot more is still going on. >> we go live now to the house veterans affairs committee, a hearing on the alleged misuse of under 50 is programmed to relocate workers. this is live coverage on c-span2 >> we are holding the second hearing tonight because the witnesses that we have requested to appear before this committee the hearing on the 21st of october chose not to attend or were blocked by the department of veterans affairs from attending. the failure to appear lettuce to unanimously vote on and issue subpoenas to compel their
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testimony, something we have never done before. the five individuals that we issued subpoenas to where danny pomo personal deputy undersecretary for benefits, diana rubin is director of the philadelphia regional office, ms. kimberly grace director of the st. paul regional office, mr. robert mckendrick director of the los angeles regional office, mr. antoine waller director of the baltimore regional office. we learned at our last hearing the ig report lays out the alleged abuse of va's relocation permanent change of station programs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money and now ms. rubin sent ms. gray said apparently in a properly use their positions of authority to put their own personal and financial benefits ahead of veterans, taxpayers and their subordinates. as the saying goes a pictures worth a thousand words a let's
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start with a map and describe in the simplest terms what tonight's hearing is all about. you can look at the screen appear. initially ms. graves and mr. waller discussed as potential transfer to philadelphia. those discussions are eventually shelved because mr. mckendree is transferred from philadelphia are a director's job to become the los angeles are a director. then ms. reubens transfers from va headquarters in d.c. to fill the philly job and receives $274,000 in relocation assistance. mr. waller is subsequently transferred from the st. paul ro director job to become the baltimore ro director job. ms. graves then transfers from her position as the eastern area director in philadelphia to fill the now vacant saint paul ro
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director job and receives about $129,000 in relocation assistance. finally both ms. reubens and ms. graves retained their fps level salaries despite assuming lower responsibility jobs. it seems to me ms. reubens and ms. graves used the relocation expense program is an expensive and confusing waste of taxpayer money given that they both volunteered to take these positions. as my colleague mr. coffman pointed out at the first hearing on this report their relocation expenses were exorbitantly more than even the highest ranking military officials received when they and their families are order to move. i'm glad to see the va has hit the pause button on this program in my judgment about to be scrapped altogether across the federal government. the ig report sheds light on va's policy of providing relocation expenses and what i
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can only describe as gross and haphazard abuse of the program. it also details a scheme by which transferred fts employees received big pay raises and large incentives with very little connection to the relative responsibilities, complexities and challenges associated with the new position. as i have said before the report is damning. i believe it's important to go forward with the facts and findings of the report as well as a ford or witnesses who are here tonight, those that are at the center the report have an opportunity to present their accounts of how events transpired. this is important both for her constitutional oversight duty and the department's transparency with the american people. after issuing the subpoena on october 21 i received a request from representatives of some of the witnesses to postpone the
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hearing, or at least at the very least excuse ms. reubens emmis graves from appearing today. i want to make it clear that requiring these individuals were any individual to appear before us today is not done to embarrass them as some may have asserted. they are here before us today because they are the subjects of this damning report which was completed at this committee's request. they are two of the individuals who allegedly created openings in philadelphia and st. paul for their own transfers to these locations and then also benefited significantly from va's relocation program to move to the openings that they allegedly generated. if this is not what happened than i believe a public hearing is an ideal place for them to tell us what actually did happen this hearing is not a joke.
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the findings of this report provide a roadmap for further inquiry and reform. my suspicion is that this kind of behavior is rampant not only throughout the department of veterans affairs but also the rest of the federal government. va must take aggressive steps to root it out hold employees accountable and be better stewards of taxpayer dollars. as i have said before if va put half the effort into pushing for true accountability or protecting their employees who come forward as whistleblowers as they have for the individuals investigated in ms ig report and i honestly think the department would be a much better place. va axis for veterans, not for itself or the unjust enrichment of its senior employees. that's why we take this ig report so seriously. that's why we are here tonight to ask the right questions and
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that is why the public and america's veterans have a right to hear from these witnesses. i recognize the ranking member ms. brown for any comments you may have. >> thank you mr. chair. the hearing this evening is a follow-up to the hearing nearly two weeks ago of the inspector general's report on an appropriate use of positions and misuse of relocation programs and incentives. the i.t. report made a number of serious charges as part of our oversight efforts. the committee is looking into the case of reallocation incidents as well as looking into the culture of the veterans benefits administration. it's important we get a better understanding of how the va uses reallocation incentives to fill important positions. especially when we see a va bird the important leadership positions go unfilled.
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we must determine whether these programs work and are they working as intended. if they are not that we must work together to make sure that they are used as recruitment and retention tool and not simply a means to reward city employees when the use of bonuses are not available. to buffer our efforts in this area to chairman daines been requesting that gao look into the appraisal or abl program not only at the va but across the government. i'm looking forward to their report in the very near future. the allegations in ig report are serious and highlighted culture of cronyism within the benefit administration. i hope our witnesses will be able to help us to get to the
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bottom of this. we all respect the rights of them to avail themselves to any cause additional rights they may have put at the end of the day we simply must find answers and made the reforms and changes we need to ensure that veterans come first. with that i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you very much miss ms. brown. her first and only cannot we have the following individuals are deseeded at the table. mr. danny pall mall undersecretary for benefits and ms. diana reubens director of the philadelphia regional office, mr. robert mckendrick truck after los angeles regional office kimberly grace director of the st. paul regional office in mr. antoine waller director of the ultima regional office ms. linda holiday deputy inspector general for the das office of inspector general.
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as her activities were heavily featured in a porsche did not respond to my request. i would ask the witnesses to please stand and raise your right hand so that we can swear you in for your testimony. do you solemnly swear under penalty of perjury that the testimony you are about to provide is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? thank you. you may be seated and let the record like that all witnesses answered in the affirmative. before we start i want to read rule 3e of the committee's rules they provide each witness who is appear before the committee or subcommittee shall file with the clerk of the committee at least 48 hours in advance of his or her appearance or at such other
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time as designated by the chairman after consultation with the ranking member a written statement of his or her proposed testimony. we have been trying for over a week to get testimony from the department. we were unable to receive that. i was told we would have it by friday. for mr. pummil to give us and then when i arrived in washington today i was told they would receive it by 2:30. then i received a two sentence summary and was told this committee would receive nothing else from the department. so i'm going to read it to you. in summary dany pummil's will cover actions in response to the ig report. he will discuss va's accomplishments, the elimination of the program across va and the ongoing review of other relocation incentives to ensure
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appropriate controls. mr. pummil i know you are not the one that made this decision. i am sure whoever that person is probably watching or listening but it's not acceptable. i am sick and tired of asking for information from the department and being given a run around. the i was asked if he could provide testimony and i said of course you can provide testimony if you provide a written statement prior to and the reason for that is to allow members of this committee to read that testimony and be able to formulate questions that are important to that testimony and we don't have that so because of that i'm not going to recognize you for an opening statement but i will be asking some questions if you in the next few minutes.
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ms. rubens, the ig report concluded that you use your position of authority for personal and financial benefit. what evidence do you have to dispute that conclusion? >> sir i've been advised by counsel not to answer that question to protect my rights under the fifth amendment to the constitution. >> what the wreck or to reflect ms. rubens has asserted her fifth her rant -- fifth amendment right against self incrimination. let me be very clear are you declining to answer that makes questions solely on the grounds that he believed the answer will incriminate you? >> sir, it's the advice of counsel has been to not enter anything that will ensure protect my rights under the fifth amend that i will continue to assert them. >> and ms. rubens was
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mr. mckendrick lying when he told you that he would only move from philadelphia to los angeles if it was a direct reassignment? >> i've been advised by my counsel not to answer that question to protect my rights under the fifth amendment to the constitution. >> let the record reflect that ms. rubens has asserted her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. ms. rubens please let me be very clear, are you declining to answer the questions that this committee puts forth solely on the grounds that you believe that the answer will incriminate you? >> sir i've been advised by counsel not answer any questions that might incriminate me. >> the report cites ms. rubens and e-mail from former undersecretary hake etu which said she was quote all in to help and make it happen" matt. as in movie to philadelphia. what was ms. hickey's rolled in
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your transfer and mr. mckendrick's transfer? >> i've been advised by counsel not to answer that question to protect my rights under the fifth amendment to the constitution. >> what with their record reflect that ms. rubens has asserted her at the moment right against self-incrimination. ms. rubens that may be very clear are you declining to answer the committee's questions solely on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> sir i've been advised that any question that might incriminate me i should in fact those are my fifth amendment rights. >> ms. rubens waited to post the philadelphia job? where they and the other candidates are there any that were considered for the job? >> chairman ivan a vice by counsel not answer that question to protect my rights under the fifth amendment to the constitution. >> let the record reflect that ms. rubens has asserted her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination and ms. rubens again let me be very clear you declining to answer
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the committee's questions solely on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> sir questions that might incriminate me in fact i have been advised by my counsel to assert my fifth amendment right. >> ms. rubens according to the ig report the hiring efforts for the borrow position in los angeles was suspended at the direction of your office in the midst of the hiring process. why did you seemingly out of the blue stop the effort to fill this position? >> mr. chairman identifies by counsel not answer that question to protect my rights under the fifth amendment to the constitution. >> let their record reflect ms. rubens has asserted her for the run -- if the member right against self and let me be clear ms. rubens your declining to answer the committee's question fully on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> i've been advised by counsel not answer questions to ensure
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protect my rights under the fifth of amendment under the constitution. >> ms. rubens are you refusing to answer any questions put before you this evening? >> no sir. >> ms. graves, the ig report concluded that you used your position of authority for personal and financial benefit. what evidence do you have that disputes that conclusion? >> upon advice of counsel at respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> let the record reflect that ms. graves has asserted her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination so ms. graves let me be there with you, are you declining to answer the committee's questions solely on the grounds that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth
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amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> ms. graves with as many management challenges that have existed at the baltimore office and your years of experience in vba why didn't you volunteer for the position? >> upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> let the record reflect ms. graves has asserted her fifth have been that right against self-incrimination. ms. graves let me be clear again are you declining to answer the committee's questions solely on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> ms. graves at what point did you put your name in for the st. paul opening, the same opening that the ig concluded that you helped create? >> mr. chairman upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fipa meant right and decline to answer that question. >> let the record reflect ms. graves has asserted her
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fifth amount right against self-incrimination. ms. graves again let us be clear are you declining to answer the committee's questions solely on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right indicted on to answer that question. >> ms. graves whose decision was it not to advertise the open position at the philadelphia regional office? >> mr. chairman upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise bike at the moment right and i decline to answer that question. >> let the record reflect again that ms. graves has asserted her fifth year with a member right against self information. ms. graves let me be very clear you declining to answer the committee's questions solely on the ground that you believe the answer will incriminate you? >> mr. chairman upon advice of counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right under the constitution and decline to answer that question. >> thank you. mr. waller. excuse me mr. mckendrick, apologize.
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since this report came out prior to this hearing have any senior leaders that be a rich i.t. regarding the statements you made that were included in the report? >> no senior leaders have talked to me about the statements that were made. it's my understanding that is under investigation. >> at n.a.b. officials instruct you as to what to say during this hearing? >> no they did not mr. chairman. >> the ig concluded in its report that you were essentially forced or course to move to the los angeles ro from the philadelphia ro. is this correct? >> i was not forced or coerced. i was directly assigned. >> what does directly assigned main? >> directory assignment means the agency has determined in the best interest of the agency that i was the right person at the right time to take the assignment. we went through a vetting
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process mr. chairman. >> had he not taken that assignment what would have occurred? >> i don't know chairman. >> ms. rubin stated in her interview with the ig that you contacted her on your own and you volunteer to go to los angeles and that she was dumbstruck that you called her. is ms. rubens -- rubens statement inaccurate of your initial contact that resulted in your transfer to los angeles? >> she was correct in that i did contact her and i did discuss reassignment and i was interested in the west coast based on my participation in the ear beep panels which are hiring panels. i participated in san diego as well as los angeles. >> mr. mckendrick are you familiar with a --
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for perjury in the u.s. code? >> i am chairman. >> you stated that i would have to be reassigned meaning i'm not jumping up and down saying sydney to l.a., send me to l.a.. you also said it's not a volunteer in my mind and i'm not volunteering. you said that under oath to the inspector general and yet today it appears you are telling me something different. do you wish to revise your statement to this committee? >> in that statement chairman, it was a process of learning about the stations on the west coast, the opportunities. i had several dialogues with several individuals about the challenges of the stations. i did express an interest by making that phonecall and several other phonecalls to inquire. the final discussions were between myself and the chief of
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staff and the va chief of staff and it was through that process the offers that were made there that the final decision was made >> mr. waller, my time is running out but i need to ask you very quickly did you like your job at the st. paul ro? >> how about your family? did they wait to move from st. paul? >> not at the time. we have these discussions they did not. >> today like living in st. paul? do you feel that you are pressured or manipulated to leave that position in st. paul? >> i do believe there was pressure for me to take another assignment. >> by whom? >> well it started with
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telephone conversations with ms. graves as well as ms. mccoy and ms. rubens as well. >> thank you. i'm going to go back to mr. mckendrick. you are presently at the los angeles pa facility? where are you presently? >> i am. >> i have visited that facility. you are the top person at that particular position? >> for the department of veterans affairs congressman brown i'm the director for the los angeles regional office in that office. >> okay. that is a very challenging position but also i would think a very interesting position and
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that you have an opportunity to work with a very challenging committee that needs a lot of government assistance. after doing your research did you want to take that position? >> i found that the position was very challenging and i was confused in the process of what was being offered for me to go. my position was that if i was to go i would have to be direct or he assigned and the agency would tell me that i was the one that had to go to go at that time. there was no one else that could do that mission. i was committed to the mission and i am committed to the mission of the va. i've struggled with the direct reassignment in another federal agency in the past. the senior leader asked me basically said we are going to directly reassign it to another position in the city and i said what are the options and i was told none and what is the alternative and i said you are fired.
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>> but that did not happen at the va. >> that did not happen here so i literally reached out to find out as much information as i could and i was very led to be able to engage in a row process including many different levels. frankly there were times when i was very committed but i had to take them into consideration my children and not being near them and i went through the process. in the end of my decision was after talking all the way up the chain that if i was going to go i would have to be directory assigned meaning there was no other senior leader in the works that would take this position. they regarded into panels that did not produce a successful candidate from the outside congressman brown. >> i like the word that i am ranking member. mr. waller, you were now at baltimore? >> yes congresswoman.
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>> and he did not want to go to baltimore? >> at the time but i was approached i was not in a position are willing to accept voluntarily going to the regional office. >> so what happened? you got reassigned? >> yes. >> did you get compensation and relocation and all of that? >> they were the benefits of an abo après software as well as a relocation incentive to go to baltimore. along with a salary increase as well. >> did you have additional responsibilities in that reassignment? >> i'm not sure and send your question. >> well, was that lateral or was it a promotion and? >> it was lateral as far as i was concerned. he was the same capacity of the director of the regional office
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so i considered it to be a lateral transfer. >> i am asking did you get additional reimbursement funds for it? or was it just lateral? >> yes maam it was just a lateral transfer. >> let me ask the question to the ig. you heard the testimony. is that contrary to your report? >> we classified the positions based on the pay bands that va uses. i believe st. paul is a pay band to which is higher than baltimore. which is a pay band three. >> baltimore would essentially have lesser responsibilities. >> then where? >> in the st. paul minnesota where mr. waller originally was. >> well that's interesting.
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maybe va should go back and relocate, rio falaise eight. it would definitely be more challenging than the other locations as far as actually physically going to baltimore. and visiting the va facility. what about mr. mckendrick's testimony? did seem to be contradictory to your report. >> mr. mckendrick i believe said all along that he would not go out to l.a. without a direct reassignment. i think it is consistent with our report because he didn't go you know because he wanted to go out there and i think that's the testimony that we have to be provided to the committee. ..
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>> the process allows you to say no, i will not be able to do this unless i am directory
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assigned because you are in the mission, part of the team, and care about what happens in va. if the agency determined above me, i am the right person to go, then i am willing to do my part to step into it. they didn't say do you want to go to iraq the first or second time. you stepped into the job. >> i would like to ask you a few
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questions. both secretary gibson, and chief of staff neighbors in response to the ig's recommendations, committed to completing the proposed accountability actions by october 31st saturday, now the deadline passed, what, if any, accountability acs have been taken? >> they delivered proposed action to ms. graves and ms. ruben on i believe october 31st. they are under the appeal time
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frame. as soon as the appealed time frame, i believe the first part of seven days, and there is an additional five days to the merit board, are complete, and he will release what the proposed punishment. >> you stated ms. rubens received the program benefit because the position was tough to fill quote unquote. is that correct? >> that is correct, congressman. >> opm policy restricts the use of relocation and incentives for hard to fill jobs. however at the committee's hearing last month, the inspector general concluded the position was never advertised. my question is how is ms. ruben eligible for these incentives if the va never tried to fill it?
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we can work with the elected officials in the area. the unions. there was a union issue, the employees and the veterans of the veteran service organization. we felt ms. rubens had all of those attributes and was probably the most experienced. i think that is the roughest and toughest ro at the time. we wanted our best version there. >> we didn't advertise the
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position? you didn't determine anyone else? you determined she was the one, it was tough to fill, and needed the incentives all as one decision. is that correct? >> yes. >> let's talk about baltimore. we were told 130 applied for the baltimore ro job when that was advertised. why were none of them considered for the position? >> same set of circumstances, congressman. when we are looking at filling out the ro, every ro is different. everyone of them has their own set of problems. antoine in minnesota did a great job and was aggressive with handling the union problems and good with working with legislatures and local vso's. baltimore had a history of problem after problem after problem. nothing we seemed to do seemed
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to be able to fix it. moving antoine there was the right call. he has improved production in almost every aspect since being there. if you want to replace an infantry commander you don't go look at applicants you say who is the best general i can p promote and put in that position and he whaas the case. >> if you could go back would you sign up on the moves highlighted in the inspector general's report? >> if i could go back in time, i would have made all of the moves, yes. >> thank, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> is there a reason why you cannot inform the committee of what the proposed actions are? >> i am sorry, congressman? >> is there any reason that you
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cannot inform the committee what the proposed actions are? >> i was told my legal advisors i cannot give that but to let you know we are using the exp expedited act. >> i want to exert to the committee that you have both exerted your fiftth amendment right. both of you have done this to avoid answering questions that are posed to you because of your suspected subpoena. considering your assertion of
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privilege the committee tends to end your questioning this evening. but this committee is going to be open to evaluate the validity of the fifth amendment assertion. i ask unanimous consent they be excused from the hearing subject to a recall. without objection, so ordered. thank you. and we will remove your name tags from your seats because you did appear. thank you very much.
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>> why weren't one of the best qualified after the second job announcement? >> i cannot answer that. after the panel screened the resumes and came up with qualified and best qualified i believe, and we chose the individuals for interview, we interviewed them and selected the ones that were the strongest to pass forward. i am not sure where they went once we were done with our part. the executive management office handled the packages from there. >> we don't know why anyone was selected from that panel? >> i don't know whether they survived the process above us or they simply were not interested after finding out all of the facts. >> do you know why the position was advertised for a third time?
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>> i assume because no one accepted it or was appointed in a prior panel. >> but as a panel, as wone of te panel members -- we move on to others. >> we have no longevity with the process. >> during the course your career with the federal government, did you negotiate salary, relocation ince incentives or pis in relation to prior positions? >> i have not. salaries on a lower level i have discussed but i wasn't the final negotiator. >> were you aware if you had volunteered for the la-vro position that you would not be eligible for the incentives and benefits? >> i did not know that. i think you are entitled travel and other incentives to go out and take the assignment. >> but this had no bearing on
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whether or not you were, maybe, looking to be directed. in my informational process of learning about the station's on the west coast, and i believe at one time, all three stations: oakland, san diego and los angeles were open and learning about the east coast versus west coast in the va i was interested in that. i showed interest. it was appropriate for people to ask me the questions they did from their point of view. i would have followed up on the leads as senior leader. i went through the process and it was clear it would be challenging and i said i would only go if directory assigned. >> you were not aware -- that decision was not related to an awareness of eligibility of benefits or incentives, you know, related to whether or not you volunteered or were
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directed. >> i had yet to work out the final details on what those would be. it was not part of direct reassigned. it was am i the best qualified candidate. if you are going out again, you are not finding anyone out there meeting the criteria. under secretary hickey i was all in and i am all in. i want the agency to succeed and serve the veterans >> were you aware a management reassignment was quote a common process csmo does? >> i am not aware of what that means within va or other agencies. >> when you completed other relocations with the federal government, were any of these management directed? i think you did answer three or four? >> one was alluded to that was management directed reassignment and i have moved with other
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offices that were not. >> thank. mr. waller, when did you speak about your reassignment to baltimore to mr. pommel? >> congress, i am not sure about that. it was probably sometime in the month of april 2014. >> was it before or after you agreed to the relocation of baltimore? >> well it had to do with a number of discussions that were leading up to my accepting to go to baltimore under reassignment. >> what did you discuss? >> we discussed some of the incentives that were being offered as far as my relocation, that was going to be important for me to accept in order to take on the new assignment of the baltimore regional office. >> mr. chairman, my time is up.
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>> question for mr. mchenric, why would you not go to la unless you were directly assigned? >> i want to serve and i am committed to the people in the community and the regional office. that is my assignment and i will always raise my hand if the agency says we cannot find anyone. my challenge is leaving my children in philadelphia and the cost of living. i itemized that in my rebuttal to the chief of staff. i would have to go through and find the numbers but it was 39% in housing, cost of living, 9% increase in health and food. the cost of living was much more expensive in california. the regional office is locate d west of holiday and it is an ex pensive part of the city.
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you don't have to live there but you can commute. >> you had reservations? >> can you say that again? >> you had reservations? >> i did. but when the decision was made and i am directory assigned i am in. you soldier up and march in. >> ms. holiday, was va using appraised value freshman inappropriately and too frequently in your opinion? or are existing opm guidelines too broad and leave too much discretion to an agency? >> the sample is really too small for the number of people that received the avo within vba to give you a good answer. i don't think it was properly justified as to need. it should have been looked at closer. avo's are expensive.
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the oig did not review the real estate market for ms. ruben's. we looked at the fact there were two appraisals given on the sale of the potential house. their averaged together and that becomes the average price that will be paid on the house. so we didn't really analyze the real estate market.
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>> question for mr. pommel. understand the opm relocation n indicates the center should be used sparringly. how can thconclude all position are high expectations? >> i don't think we can. i think we were using the avo program we were not paying attention to everything we should be. we were not looking at all of the procedures and policies in place. one of the things the secretary has done is put a hold on that. inside of vba, i put a task force together to look at all moves, all incentives, all promotions and everything we did for senior executives and everything we have been doing for the right reasons.
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i think it is important to get the right person at the right place and time to take care of the veterans we were not looking at second and third order affects and we need to do a better job. >> when asked if moving ses was a way to get around the mandated pay freeze you responded and i would quote i would say this is probably true. do you stand by your statement? >> i did say that. >> thank you. >> no further questions. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> did you write a letter to sloan gibson asking to be moved back to philadelphia in the summer of 2014? >> i did not. >> chairman, i did not. >> thank you. ms. brownly. >> i just wanted to say prior to the appointment many of us who
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represent southern california have been in contact with the secretary to urge the va to quickly fill this position which had been vacant for nearly a year. and there was an enormous backlog of claims at the los angeles office and without this position being filled we were very concerned that veterans' claims would continue to take far too long to process. i am certainly disappointed to learn that the delays in filling the vacant position in los angeles may have been made worse by senior vba leadership. i would always like to say since mr. mckindric filled the position he has made an effort to increase the va's presence in the community, come up to ventura county -- my district --
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to participate in veteran benefits organized by my office. and came to participate in vha events to learn more about the community for which i am very, very grateful of. my dealings, he has been professional and committed to helping the regions' veterans. however the purpose of our hearing today is to find out whether senior level officials put undue pressure on employees to vacate their position and relocate. these allegations are serious and i appreciate you appearing before the committee today to get to the bottom of what happened in philadelphia.
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according to the ig's report, the first two job postings didn't result in hiring the director. i think that was mentioned earlier. despite 168 applications, five of whom were considered best qualified. when a third job posting was made, the 112 applicants that applied were not rated or rank. the hiring process was suspended at the direction of ms. ruben's office. were you aware of this action? >> unfortunately i wasn't. the way we divided up duties and responsibilities as the under secretary was very much involved with her staff and reassignment
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of regional offices. i ran the staff, budget and operation and didn't get into that pretty much unless i was called in specifically because they felt it would be a conflict of interest. i know there was lots of problems in los angeles. the under secretary was very concerned about getting the right person there. i agree with you, mack is the right person. strong leader, gets along great with the local communities. i think we made a good move there. >> the office of personal management includes salary increases across all federal agencies. back in 2012, the secretary stopped all of the a-sef performance awards.
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but my understanding is vba paid $321,000 in salary increases to reassign vba employees in 2013, 204 and 2015. ask you explain how they justified the salary increases? >> yes, congresswoman. the first case i was involved in was actually antoines and when we were negotiating and talking salary i had to call over to the chief of staff and ask if we were allowed to do the salary increase. and the answer was the only time we can increase their salary is during a pcf move. if the duties and responsibilities are such they are more complex or greater, they are moving from a higher to lower level, or there is issues such as los angeles or baltimore, serious issues, long
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term issues that you have not been able to fix, then you have the authority to not give the pay raise, but we could recommend that to head quarters and then it could be approved at our head quarters. outside of a pcf move we could not raise their salaries. >> thank you, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. just a couple brief questions. why did they stop taking applicants? >> i cannot say. >> i think what is clear happened is getting around rules here. let me speak from somebody who sees veterans every day that can
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not get their claim adjudicated, can't get in, and i look here at people making hundreds of thousands of dollars, moving on close to 200, with 13% increases and on and on, and i have to go home and tell social security recipients that they get a big goose egg. do you see how in flamitory tha is to go explain? i understand it is a complicated organization. and you have to pay good people. i understand that. but this is hard when i go back and understand to veterans who can't get the colonoscopy or this or that. and see this behavior. do you understand? >> i absolutely understand. i come from a small town where people don't make much money.
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$10,000 is a big deal where i come from. as a veteran, i spent 33 years in the army. i care for veterans and want to do the right thing. we had 20 vacancy this year. our goal was to get the right person to those right ro's. one of the things we have done is in the last couple years, we now pay more money to more veterans faster than every before. i am responsible for making sure that $90 billion a year is paid in benefits and services to veterans in the united states. >> my point is it doesn't matter about the 90 billion. what matters is what is paid to one veteran. that is what they say. their check. they see one person with a 14% increase and this veteran is getting nothing and the social security recipients get a goose egg, nothing but the cost going
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up. and that is a problem i have personally. i have a tough time with that. and did you, and i am asking you a fairly difficult question, but there was an inference in the oig's report that there would be a risk to you to lose your job if you didn't accept this mandatory move. and you soldiered on and i appreciate you going to a place you didn't want to go. were you worried about loosing your job if you were not ordered to take this assignment? you said i am not going to move. i like it here. >> i went through a process at many different levels, showed interest at different levels, i was excited about the opportunities -- >> was the answer yes or no? yes, i was worried or no, i
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didn't have concern. >> if i would have said no, there was always the concern they could use that to move me. my private experience told me if dri i didn't accept it i would be removed but that wasn't the case in this instance. >> mr. waller, i cannot see you, but you for some reason, and i would like your explanation, you opted out of the avo program. what was the reason you did that? >> at the time it was offered my house i own in minnesota was under value of what it would take to pay off the loan. so the offering wouldn't have been a benefit. >> according to the ig's report, you and ms. graves had a report when asked about moving back to the west coast and you said you would be interested if there was
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a position in philadelphia. did she ever mention baltimore? >> not in the initial conversation. baltimore had not been a part of the conversation. it was only subsequent to my initial conversation that ms. graves asked for my interest in baltimore. >> my time expired. >> thank you. ms. titus, you are recognized. >> thank you. i would like to ask mr. pommel questions. i am working on a letter asking if they could investigate any g-15 employees who used their influence and power to better their situation at the expense of others and asking them to investigate how many gs-15 have may moved to jobs with less
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responsibility while maintaining their salary. this brings me to a specific question about mr. ed russell. who was the director of the reno ro. they could not get rid of him even though he did a terrible job there. he was on leave with pay for a year, i think. he was working as a senior advisor in the field here in washington which is a three hour time difference. i am wondering if you know anything about this. how many people applied for that job? was it created for ms. russell? is he doing the same work with the same amount of pay? do you have any idea of how much this created at the central offices here or regional offices to take care of this kind of problem? >> congresswoman, i don't know if that has been done before.
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i do believe that the position was crueltyed for mr. russell, without getting my -- created -- myself in trouble, i believe it was part of a court settlement that restricts what we can and can't say about it. one of the issues we have, one of the great accountability, but let's see how it works out. the rules and regulations are so hard it is almost impossible. in mr. russell's case he is being held capabiliacapabilitco.
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>> he didn't have to move. he got to stay in reno and work from home by phone or computer. >> there are no provisions that allow us to forcible move a gs employee. we can only do that with the ses employees. we don't have that available for our gs. >> the philadelphia ro had a lot of problems. so you moved that director to los angeles which also had a lot of problems and moved the person from los angeles to reno which had a lot of problems. is this a good strategy moving people from poorly performing offices to other poorly performing offices? >> the individual in los angeles we moved was just there temporarily. we had gone through a series of people we put there acting. they had done a pretty good job
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while in los angeles. mack was brand new to va. while i wasn't involved in the assignment, i felt when we brought him in, i love his leadership ability, how we works with people and negotiates and comba gets the organization to work. in retrospect, we should not have taken someone outside and stuck them in the most complex regional office. he did a good job but was much better suited for the los angeles office than the philadelphia office. i think that played out. he has literally improved them by 89% in the short time he has been there. sometimes we have to move people around. we don't always make the right decisions. there was a huge domino affect with the 20 vacancy and trying to get everybody in the right
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place. >> his primary qualification wasn't he lived in philadelphia and you needed that opening? >> not that i am aware of. >> thank you very much. mr. pommel, you said it was probably a mistake to have put mr mr. mckenrick in that office? >> if i was making that decision i would not have put mack in philadelphia for the first assignment. >> because in his evaluation, his reviewing officer, ms. rubens, wrote and i quote, his leadership through the fiscal year resulted in multiple successes and a steady increase in production and quality in the last quarter and i fully expect his leadership to result in continued improvements during the coming here.
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>> mr. pommel, to the best of your knowledge, has any of the va employees mentioned in the report been interviewed or questions by the federal agencies in regard to the findings in the report? >> i have no knowledge of that. okay. >> can you tell me a little bit more about -- i know you suspended the relocation program. and you mentioned some of the things but could you tell me again what specifically had been done within the va to counteract the culture that seemed to allow this misuse of funds to happen? >> i had a long conversations actually again today with our deputy secretary gibson. he absolutely understands and so does the secretary that we have an accountability problem. as i told the congress beside you, we pay out a lot of partly sunny -- money.
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you cannot pay out that money and not be held accountable. we have to be responsible for what we do in our jobs. the debt set believes we have to hold people acapabilicountable. if we don't, he is committed to under the law holding the ses at least accountable. one of the things he asked me to put out is in all of the cases he has worked since he has been given this position of overseeing the ses enforcement he has proposed actions on all he can, some decisions are final, s? are still in the appellate process, but he is moving forward on all of them and understands the need to hold people accountable. >> i would like another commitment from you.
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in the incident just brought up about reno and her, i think, disgust with the whole situation there, would you be willing to work with us to try to develop better rules for those employees that we can make it easier to deal with this type of situation in the future? >> i personal will. but i think you will have to fight a large federal government. >> i would like to get invites to work on that. >> did you believe anybody in the va has misused their position in any way in this whole situation? >> i believe that on the course of my conversations and my ultimate decision to go to baltimore came with pressure to
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accept the assignment. i did in fact accept the assignment. i went into that opportunity with all of the passion that i could to lead and continue to lead my office. >> that is a yes then you are saying? i understand what you are saying. but my question is did you believe that anybody in the va misused their position? >> i cannot answer that, congressman. >> have you received any retrobution or negative consequences from the following of the publication of the ig report? sgr >> i am sorry. >> any retrobution of consequences following the report of the ig report? >> no, i have not >> have you had anything like that? >> congressman, i can only
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answer the voters very well are aware of what goes on in washington. when i go to town hall a week ago, there were questions about the document shredded. it is careful how we get it out to the public. the retrobution comes from them. they want to know answers and want facts. i struggle to say we have to get the facts out from the va as well. there is opportunities when we put misinformation out without getting all of the information. >> to the best of your knowledge, has ms. rubens or ms. graves apologized to veterans and taxpayers for their behavior? >> >> i have no knowledge of that. >> my time is up
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>> mr. holiday, clarify the comment that no documents were shredded at la. >> i would gladly clear that. what happens in the splshred pr the documents go through reviews. my audit staff received a tip there were documents in the final splat been going off to destruction. they took the articles from the bins to see if they were legitimate and needed to be recorded. they were not destroyed but handed back to the senior officials so they would be processed correctly. we would have been negligent had we just let them get destroyed. the last bin had, i think, nine
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documents. the other part was you could not tell how many other documents may have been destroyed because there was a requirement to maintain a log on the descrags of claim documents. -- destruction -- they had not maintained that log for several month and didn't have a record disposition officer. so there was nothing to compare really a period of time to another period of time. >> it is your testimony had those documents remained in the final splat bin they had have been splat hreded. >> i like the way you soldier up and i will like ysay i like theo
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that. >> we are not prepared to talk about shred. that was the answer to the question. the shred is every employee has a red bin at their desk. everything that is not trash or newspaper or magazine goes under the bin in that desk. they go through that before the pick up. this was the old process. we changed it and made it better. but everything found, the 16 documents, found tay looks at 16,318 documents taken after the employee review and the record management officer review and put in a locked gray shred bin. 13,800 documents reviewed and not one document found in the final process. all 16 initial documents were
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found in the red splat bhred bi. we worked on that and disciplined individuals. that is the responsibility we have to you. but zero in the gray shred bin. >> we had a hearing on this before. i yield back. >> i don't believe that changes the fact 16 veterans would have been negatively affected had the inspector general not removed those documents from the final shredding bin. >> thank you for holding the hearing. i was shocked to learn of the authority being used for financial gains. i am disappointed to
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investigating another scandal instead of focusing time on patient care. we need to change to more veteran's focus. they deserve access to a high quality health care system and not subjected to one that is bogged down. the veterans in my district deserve better. i want to go back to mr. kinric. can you explain the process of shredding and do you have concerns about the methods or legitim legitimacies of both reports from the inspector general offices'? >> chairman, none were found in the final gray shred bins. it wasn't laid out that every
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employee has a red shred bin at their desk. the praocess was the employee would go through the bin, super visor through the document, and record officer goes through them and they would end up in the lock and gray shred bin. there was a process that needed to be tightened up. the old management officer reapplied and became the new records management officer and was seasoned in that and involved throughout the transition. he was in place before -- >> let me remind you i asked you the question. do you have any concerns in terms of the report of the methods on the report? >> we identified there were 24 errors, omissions, or misstatements in the ig report that were not factorial or accurate or misleading from our point of view. >> you are referring to the
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shredding report. how about in terms of the investigation this hearing is about? >> i believe that is your question. >> that is what you are referring to? >> correct. the shredding report. >> ms. holiday, what is the number one priority recommendation that you gave in terms of fixing the current scandal and has it been accomplished? >> if you are referring to current scandal to the abusive changes i believe the process has to be tightened up oh so it doesn't repeat. >> if there was one thing that would make the biggest difference what would that be? >> the one thing that tends to make the biggest difference is holding people accountable for these actions.
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it sends a message. >> you are saying it hasn't been done? >> i believe they are in the process. >> how far are we in making sure people are held accountable? >> both of the individuals were delivering their proposed punishment on october 31st. they are in the appeal process. that is seven days. at the end of the process, we can notify the chairman and this committee what that punishment was. >> thank you. dr. winstrop you are recognized. >> i want to go back to your evaluation report. it says i fully expect the leadership to result in continued improvement during the coming year. so based on that remicommendati,
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it sounds like you are doing well and succeeding in philadelphia. you are familiar with an officer's evaluation report. is this similar to what you experience in the military? people rating you only allowed to give so many people the highest marks or everyone can get the highest marks? did you have to do a support form? how is this processed compared to that? >> it is similar to the officer evaluation report. we provide input. i am not aware of what the criteria above my level is. i think the ranking criteria and what i put into it. there is a discussion with senior officials, it is approved three levels up. >> was ms. rubens evaluating a lot of people? just you? a lot of people? >> i don't know the profile above me.
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>> i am curious why you would be the only person to have to be directly reassigned. >> if you are giving me an opportunity to defend myself on the philadelphia issue i will. personally, i am challenged by the investigation which was according to ms. holiday, over a hundred wise witnesses, no one ever asked me the question. i was the director for two years. i worked with employees and i can tell you all of the good work, the meetings we had, we discussed the same issues we had here and talked about challenges and how to work through them. you can find bad in challenges in everything but you have to look for the good and acknowledge that as well. >> one thing i am trying to drive at, and maybe someone else can up with the answer to this, but it just seems strange to me, that you were the only person in
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your position in america that was under consideration for a directory assignment. the assumption one might make is one, either you were the best person in america that could take this job as opposed to someone else who maybe had similar qualifications and ratings. they chose you. and i cannot believe you are the only one they felt could fill that position. i have to imagine, other people must have been considered. did you hear in the process of anybody else? did you every ask to be reassigned or if you were the
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only one? >> we did discuss why other directors are not stepping up there. as i went through the process, and learned and went into the interactive process, and with the chief of staff, i struggled with the challenges of the station, it is a much higher cost of living out there and a much different type of environment. >> i understand that. my question is why were you the only one that was targeted for direct reassignment? there has to be other people with good qualifications and you were not looking for this. >> to be frank, i started the conversation, inganlengaged in thought it was fair to officials to say are you interested and i was interested. i cannot answer as to why i am the one that survived that process. >> are you the only one who got put through the process is my question? did you ask or find out if anyone was else being approached
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for the assignment or just you? >> the only assignment i heard about was baltimore. >> i am just saying was anyone else dprrd directory assignment for the job you got assigned to beside you? >> not that i am aware of. >> that is what i wanted to find out and hopefully will. i find that curious. why do you think ms. rubens was sent to do a job where you were doing successfully? >> i cannot answer that question either. >> members i refer you to page 33 and 34 of the transcript dated june 10th and i quote interested in the challenges and position and how it is made up and wanting to learn more is different than either applying or raising my hand saying send me to la.
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ms. custer. >> thank you, mr. chair. my question is directed to mr. pommel. it is typical for se seamars' ir positions to take on the position with less responsibility and in a lower pay band. does that typically happen? >> the first two are the ones that occurred with ms. graves and ms. rubens. >> is it it common for upper-level management of any level to fake positions of lesser responsibility? are you aware of that ever happening before? >> these are the first two i am aware of congresswoman. >> and do you know why in this case these two individuals chose to or took lower level positions? do you know what the reasoning was behind that? gl i don't know for sure. i can speculate.
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i know ms. rubens had been in her job for a long time. she was a little bit wore out with the whole dc-action. and wanted to get back to the basics to the ro again. on kim graves, to be perfectly honest, i have been in my -- i was in the deputy job for two years, and in the first couple weeks of the new job, i had discussions with the under secretary that maybe it was time to move kim from an area director to an ro because we were having problems in the eastern area. kim was really, really good. but it just wasn't up to the other areas and it was time for her to move on. >> i was curious, have you ever -- this was the first time you have seen anyone step down. so you haven't seen anyone step down and keep the same high
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level of compensation? >> as a matter of fact, when they moved to their new position, i contacted the hotel office just to make sure retaining salaries was appropriate. i was informed under the law, unless it was a demotion or adverse action there was no were vision in the law to allow us to lower the salaries of someone going from a higher position to lower position. >> that seems something we could fix. they were full-time positions, right? >> right. these are full-time, very demanding, tough positions. but not at the level they were at before. >> great. thank you. and is it typical for all ses' to be directly reassigned even when they volunteer for a position, and you may have covered this, but i am curious about the direct assignment
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compared to volunteering. >> no. an ses can volunteer or or be directed. i don't believe we have ever directed someone inside vba. i believe that is something we need to change. i think our directors, part of the problem is they remain in position for too long. i think they should be like general officers in the army where they don't spend 30 years in one location and become too comfortable. i don't think that is a good thing. i think we should use the ability to move people around a little bit more often. >> ms. holiday, i am just curious, and you may or may not know the answer to this question, but we are learning that this is a practice across the government, not just at the veteran's administration. are you familiar with the practice in any other agencies? had you run into anything like
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this in the other agencies? >> i don't have experience or any data on the other federal agencies. the federal government is so large you would have to think there are some chemisms. >> -- chemism fe combicho >> i said in a hearing the va continues to have what is a crisis of confidence within senior level executives at the va. every day it seems like there is something new. projects overbudget, behind schedule, whistle blower re retaliation and now this. the veterans and taxpayers are furious at what is goinging on in my district. i am sitting here, listening to the testimony go on and on, and
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mr. pommel, you are a retired army colonel, correct? >> yes. >> and i appreciate your service. thank you for your service. but what do you think the affect of the moral of troops would be if the commander bent the rules to his or her benefit and what does it do to the troops? what does it do in your former life looking at this situation right now? >> it is devastating if the senior leaders are not held accountab accountable. >> and you are from a world premier business school. if they took this case study today, the professors, and said look at the real-time, real-life disaster we have on our hands. we long for the day for the organization to be healthy but it isn't. we tried everything. what would the school professors look at this case and what would
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they say how to fix this? b >> one of the discussions is how do we manage a workforce that we cannot -- when in the private sector eliminate or discipline but we have to work through the rules. >> one of the things that the chairman talked about every time we meet is the ability for senior level executives to be fired/disciplin fired/disciplined/moved out. but yet every time folks from the va came in and we would ask the question how many people have been fired and the answer may have gone from maybe two or
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three or maybe they could not give us the name -- ...
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>> >> as it would have been to the troops as well and to the students and the people in my district and better rising in that demoralizing environment how in the world will the v.a. ever higher the doctors or nursing professionals to run the agency that tonight, how in the world from the ever tracked those employs they need to make this may help the organization? >> i think we can do it the secretary is on track to put the veteran first with
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everything they do. there is good people out there that want to work for the government and help the veterans to read the table with me they have given up a lot there is a lot of people out there that want to do it we just have to have the commitment it and they will come work for us. >> hq i would have to focus on leadership and what i would like to talk about is improved work place in the va in real the leadership is directly linked to veterans care we could with a toxic worker environment but the good news is that the questions are coming from
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the american people they ask me what i will ask all of you and the good news is a simultaneous accountability peace and at that point in time we may find out more but worrying about the legal situation with day-to-day operations of new regional office. >> after i talk of the 31st of october to take proposed action and we determined that the deputy of minnesota is very strong and as more than capable if for some reason she cannot fill that position we will
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be okay. >> you give me your assurance there is not a single veteran in any way negatively impacted by this grave situation? >> i will give you my insurance really terrific we can this does not happen as we take action against sanders -- people to use say there is an impact on the office tuesday that the office stays motivated we're not doing this arbitrarily it is for veterans and for them to do their jobs. >> i appreciate that because i am concerned with those who go to work every day and i think a soldier on but i will tie two things together did you say she was moved to st. paul because she was not
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performing to standard in her previous position? >> no. not the issue wasn't performing to standard. i just felt in my position as a deputy that of our area directors of the eastern area. >> how would you rate the st. paul office under mr. waller's leadership? >> excellent. >> i would say that to with their personal interactions that have been pretty extensive and that was just the leader was mr. waller. when these decisions are made though looks at the second or third degree fact? the questions start to ask to bring up the question of the press it has a critical
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responsibility in our democracy they cannot get a straight you answer so you are right that misinformation and i would suggest don't expect the v.a. to give a benefit of the doubt on anything but what can we do to have the senior leaders to know what is going on in to work with local elected officials can you give them get out there without having to clear all the way back here then back down there? >> we can. that secretary just a you know, i was supposed to retire november 1st of this year. the secretary asked me to
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stay to be the acting undersecretary i told him i would stay as long as he needed me or have confidence in my ability to do the job. i want them to engage with the press and with their local legislators. >> i appreciate that. i think it is the best interest to have folks you have confidence in it is a senior executive because the minute this is held back the public thinks the worst. i appreciate that offer its high-yield back. >> here is to get the bottom of some of these questions i want to do follow-up to the extent to say it is
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virtually impossible to fire an employee? could you explain that? >> in my experience i have been with the v.a. five years. the civil servants in federal government lied have incredible projections and safeguards so the process takes an incredible amount of documentation of taxpayer dollars that normally ends with somebody outside the organization and to say you missed a step i personally find it very hard to navigate. >> it is virtually impossible. >> in my opinion.
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>> and how you describe the process for those under not doing their job. >> i think it will work and it is the right decision i told the chairman miller and senator breaux withal -- senator plymouth all that it should be totally why not just one department it puts a lot of pressure on best buy and the steel and the veterans committee but i have a concern with that. >> we tend to hear that. may be digging give us some insight like you can.
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compared to a soon-to-be former employees with the status on the other two. we're trying to improve this agency in before you testified the you have any conversations with your superiors above you? >> the only conversation is with the secretary to told me to be honest and tell the truth to this committee that there absolutely committed to turning the culture of the v.a. around to hold people accountable and then to be irresponsible conduct to ensure overall delivery speed. >> who made the decision not
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to testify for you to come? >> i wish i knew. [laughter] >>. >> your complex chain of command in order to ensure the due process of the individuals involved in this case to testify at that time. >> who told you could not testify? >> i don't know. a couple of people. >> someone told you you could testify but it was compelled by subpoenas somebody told you could not 10 days ago but you don't know who was? >> i know who it was. one of the ladies that works in the department she is
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pretty low level to talks to 0cl8 to talk to people so i don't want to put it on her she just said you cannot do this but then i received chairman miller subpoena on the way to really into. >> absolutely vile trying to understand we try to clean this up and then we clearly gain the system. to say we don't want you to tell the true spirit nobody is gaining the system honestly they were trying to make sure under the accountability act that they got the proposed punishments
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out and have done the right things i don't believe they wanted us to start testifying to say it would mess up the process. >> and the refusal of the employees to do that but you do agree with the conclusion that they gave the system of those to a employees? >> i have not seen any of the actual testimony that has been released. >> you agree with that? >> have good confidence they have looked at everything and if they believe they have done the right thing. >> i want to see if i could
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look at those conclusionsif i cd look at those conclusions senior officials use their position to force out to regional office directors in what they want to occupy. and then are compensated at most of us find exorbitant and they already volunteered for the move to philadelphia into st. paul. do i have that right? >> do you disagree? >> i don't but i have not seen any of the evidence. >> so one aspect of
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disagreement to see if he was forced out of philadelphia. do you disagree with the conclusion that seems to be the case may be forced out is the wrong word that pressured with his kids were there to say he was not jumping up and down was he pressured out? >> i would have to see both testimony to make that determination. >> to say you have punished them. >> they have been. >> for what are they being punished? >> i don't know. >> this committee is seeing more evidence that i have provided only see the public reports and it isn't evidence i have not even
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seen my own testimony nothing. so i come in here to see the public report and that absolutely have confidence that they have proposed a punishment i assume that is appropriate. >> we don't know what that punishment is for. is it safe to say that criminal referral made is connected to what i just described? >> we have made a criminal but the department of justice has not decided they will except for prosecution if non in this to the department to take their administrative action which is what he is talking about. >> you made 12
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recommendations and the v.a. agreed with all of them and you mention for two of them or administrative action that they go through the due process related to that that was about to recoup expenses paid heavy since the may bill? >> i have not. >> what about v.a.? >> has that been filled? >> the v.a. as far as i know has to weigh all the evidence to determine to the extent either individual has to be put the full amount of the cost into the of recommendations since we
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believe they misused their position to make the government whole. as the way all the evidence to determine the appropriateness because she did not receive all of that many, goes to that abo program she received approximately 33,000. >> but these are actions and the taxpayer is out that amount. >> yes. the government needs to be made whole since we drew the conclusion since they used -- misused their position. >> we have a deadline for reducing the backlog of claims and want to commend the v.a. to make extraordinary gains has this
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debacle and undersecretary stepping down impede progress toward achieving that goal? >> yes it has. >> anybody in the military knows there is an impact on the organization to pretend that there isn't is silly. there was an impact there wasn't a downturn for our five days after the undersecretary is on for whatever reason then they pick back up again and as a blast of last wednesday hitting over 5,000 today. >> what is the reset goal in deadline? >> by the end of the calendar year we will between 70 and 80,000 of a
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backlog which is over 125 days but as far as getting at zero we will never get there. there will always be veterans because of the complexity of their cases, a veteran expose to nuclear radiation you cannot do it in 125 days but we do want to get it down as low as possible. suspended all this time to get it down that low but if they don't trust us were believe our numbers so how to regain the trust and confidence for this committee we have to get that trust. to the best our ability going in the right direction >> you are recognized.
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>> use as an elegant statement tonight about accountability and what this boils down to in my opinion is the lack of accountability and the lack of trust so personally i find it incredulous we have to subpoena witnesses to testify when they're asked to do so. going back i will ask you a direct question you said there was a lady that told you you could not will you or will you not reveal that name? >> it is christina.
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>> she is just a clerk. >> we don't want to bring her in but we designed to make sure we have an open dialogue in there is no innuendoes of trying to protect. following up on the question i realize you have done outstanding work and we appreciate your service to the country and the v.a. system but personally had he been questioned by a federal agents? >> i consider a investigator to be a federal agent they have interviewed me twice for the record and one other time that continued through e-mail. >> is just the ig.
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>> the same here. just the idea. let's go back to the baltimore application process of the 131 applicants were any of them interviewed your question as far as their ability? >> i don't know. >> were you aware ms. rubin's had family in philadelphia? >> i was. >> to the influence her decision for her to move to be closer to her family? >> yes. >> read all have an opinion but i do believe it was not her decision to move to los angeles but the chief of staff. >> did you read the ig report? >> you understand the implication of the possible misuse of her position to move into that position.
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>> i do. i and the individual that is involved for those directors as the office of field operations as i talk to him learn more of the west coast and the cost of living is higher in the los angeles area what is the reimbursement for living expenses? >> i believe they are listed in the ig report. i was given a relocation subsidy of $20,000. >> what was yours? >> mine was 40,000. >>.
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>> the v.a. is responsible for approving the 129,000? >> said chief of staff of the v.a. is the approval authority for the moving incentives. i don't think they have approved the exact number but aside from the ig investigation and others that may have gone on internally. >> i'm sorry other then the inspector general investigation done as a result of this committee requesting its what has been initiated internally? >> whenever a case like this
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comes up we initiate the internal investigation the since the new secretary's have arrived if it seems like a senior executive to be done equitably throughout the va. >> i don't know if there was in this instance. >> was the investigation initiated internally? >> it was turned over to be viewed by the general counsel of accountability and review. >> do you have any information as anybody else being a target other than
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ms. rubin's orvis grapes? >> there is one other example of potential misuse of a recruitment bonus relocation but that is being handled separately with d.h. day. >> any reason why there isn't anyone as the target of the investigation to sign of on these exorbitant numbers? >> i don't think the investigation was limited to the individuals that got the payouts i begin when under the chain of command is under investigation all the
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way up to the undersecretary that was in the ig report. >> so there may be another one done that you don't know about? >> i don't believe there was but the office of accountability they turned over to the justice department. >> and not spend taxpayer dollars but they are the targets of these investigations signed off five the chief of staff what type of accountability is provided other than the target of your investigation? it goes to the top of the
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v.a. >> italy believe the program is really under investigation. i think the investigation is whether or not people colluded to take positions if it is a government program the prices we paid our not exorbitant i personally think it is too much but it is a legal legitimate program available >> but ms. graves comes from the setting for their underperforming? >> there is a lot of different disables the committee hears about and if
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it is broken this committee has heard of hospital construction cost several hundred million dollars over budget one colleague would ask when she would get a time line of the budget and clearly there are the targets of investigation but there is no evidence whatsoever than nobody else above her is being pursued. she is in seibald? >> yes she is i would offer that accountability that has not been provided. and it is desperately in need so i appreciate the
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chairman for having this hearing. i yield back. >>. >> i have questions for everybody here. on page 21, may 27, and this ribbons and miscreance -- ms. graves said okay looks like i am coming home as an option i went with the most expedia option in she replied had you talked about dates? she said i cannot be in the middle c may want to check with mr. clark at this time he was the western area director so how did how did it become if you know, the
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person to which the maneuvering to get the job how was he a central figure? is that of ms. reubens making or its of the assign him to that position? >> i believe that was based on his position i believe that once ms. reubens identified she wanted philadelphia position she needed to recuse herself. >> the western area includes philadelphia? >> no. that is the eastern area. >> we're talking about pellet of via -- philadelphia. >> you are talking about her going out to los angeles civic so this is not ms. reubens response? ic.
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so my follow-up question is mr. clark's involvement he was a central figure to your charge in philadelphia and did you look into that and obviously did not include ms. reubens unseen latest was there any relationship between ms. reubens and mr. clark? >> his role in philadelphia is a management function for v.a. for any culpability based on the evidence. the ig rule is to give our report sufficient time to
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take cold to look at the recommendations and do the follow-up to are the conditions corrected? >> date you had the opportunity to review the ig report and the 35 recommendations 32 out of the 35 were corrected or addressed? >> i am aware of the report. >> day you have an opinion? >> i am not there today so i don't know what ms. reubens knew about those issues but with an initial aspect of
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the investigative process. >> that is what i have been getting at. and with the condition of the regional office and to work with the way to associate with. and we are accurate with the struggles that we had. with all the good work and what we are working on doing that is what i struggled to find. that there is listed in the standards. and with that communication
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and to identify the things that we need to work on but with that collaborative efforts that were done there to be more e efficient. >> directing your consternation? >> i think ms. reubens is the great leader and did great work. >> and today we read about the number of v.a. employees on paid leave if this is on the credibility and mr. or rourke summarize the conclusions and what ms. reubens did it is very difficult for those used the facility looking for improvements to say i
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believe all that has happened that reform has been made when the person who started it do what she did. and one last question, they are critical needs standard to use the relocation program? >> that is correct. and they are critical needs because i absolutely mitt we have a better job everything is on hold. >> would you like to respond to this statement? >> yes i would. at the a philadelphia of
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bureau be received over 200 allegations of problems dealing with data manipulation, numbers, a poor performance, and mismanagement but we could not looking at all 200 allegations we took all the critical process that we found to read too efficient operation idle believe we needed to speak to him but will get the underlying process it is difficult to determine does somebody have an agenda to come to some conclusion? we did more work that we had to do to get the message right the bureau had problems and everywhere we
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look there is problems. i do take some offense to say to talk to him that he was no longer there robert t. was there they entered the bureau in june 192014 and worked from that point on. from that time he was probably in los angeles. i think looking at the evidence in the process to do interviews in the trench is enough to provide an accurate picture of the philadelphia and a bureau. >> this committee went to philadelphia we had a hearing there the veterans came to this committee and they wanted us to know it
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was more than one. obviously there were problems and of course, for a very long time. but i agree we should have interviewed you to also point out the string and white - - weaknesses and the strings strength. >> it was a closed-door meeting with the employees it was not a full hearing of this committee. >> this is a question for mr. waller as the director what is your employees' reactions of the director's job from whoever took the job?
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and with that there were a few that to give very disappointing that is part of my conversation to turn back to the office to speak to the entire staff to let them know this information and that is shared will not define who they are and they need to know i was there to help lead them through this
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challenge as we move forward >> in your interview with the ig you said maybe it is time to come to congress to say if we don't have the r0 in every state. could you explain that? >> yes i can. we have come to the time with the automation with the systems that we have that there needs to be a location in every state where veterans can go to like a kiosk have a cup of coffee to say how about my benefits i am having a problem.
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generally the claims can be done anywhere in the united states if we would centralize them in different locations we kaput experts on different types of claims to do a better job. we are not there yet it is a little out of context because we still don't have enough automation were i would be comfortable not having a claims representative and every state represent every state but we are getting closer how do we best use this national treasure to support veterans? and it may not be that we have a claims office in every state is this something we seriously have to look at. >> i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have a list of questions i would like to ask ms.
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reubens and miss graves if they were here. one of those is the concerns was this question. is there anything you would like to say in regards to your alleged behavior as outlined in this report? but they took the fed unfortunately. colonel, you said, and i agree we have to do something to bring back the trust. and you had superiors you have to answer to


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