A new report published by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) substantiated allegations that a senior official committed ethics and conflicts-of-interest violations. The senior VA official, who served as the executive director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Education Service, has resigned after being accused of violating laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest in dealings with her spouse’s employer. The OIG report comes after Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reviewed whistleblower complaints and pushed for more information from the VA.
“The findings from the Inspector General’s investigation are alarming, and it’s clear a senior official violated ethics rules by engaging in VA business with a company her husband worked for. I have sent four letters to the VA asking questions about this matter, but the VA has failed to produce a single relevant document or respond to any of my questions. This administration has espoused being the most transparent in history, but time and time again they’ve continued to stonewall congressional investigations. This complete and utter lack of transparency from the VA is unacceptable, and I’ll continue working to ensure those who engage in wrongdoing are held accountable,” Grassley said.
After Grassley sought watchdog reviews of alleged ethics violations, the leaking of market-sensitive information and whistleblower reprisal last April, the VA OIG confirmed an administrative investigation into the allegations. It was later revealed the process was riddled with significant obstruction of basic questions, prompting Grassley to demand answers from VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
Below are four key findings from the VA OIG’s report:
- A senior official participated in matters involving her spouse’s employer without considering an apparent conflict of interest and acted contrary to ethics guidance she received;
- The senior official’s interactions with the Veterans Evaluation Services (VES) president violated the apparent conflict rule;
- The senior official provided insufficient detail about their spouse’s business in 2019 and 2020 public financial disclosures but remedied it;
- The senior official refused to cooperate fully in the OIG’s investigation.
In an effort to bring more transparency and accountability to government agencies, Grassley has introduced a bipartisan bill – the Inspector General Testimonial Subpoena Authority Act – which would give inspectors general certain subpoena authority to strengthen their ability to safeguard taxpayers.
Read the full VA OIG report by clicking HERE.