House Hearing Shows Graves Demoted, Rubens ‘Wore Out’

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Benjamin KrauseThe recent House hearing on Veterans Affairs last night confirmed suspicions that Kim Graves, former head of East Coast Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), was ill-equipped. It also confirmed that Diana Rubens, now director of Philly Regional Office, was burned out.

RELATED: VA bonus winners sat on review boards

I created a basic video of how it felt watching the hearing. The video gradually speeds up as the participants continually pleading “the fifth” when refusing to answer questions. I thought it was funny how things speed up, but I have a weird sense of humor so you may not agree. But pay attention to the mid point and end point of the testimony. I spliced in the admission of VBA of the reason for the scandal in the center and end of the clip.

[easy-tweet tweet=”@deptvetaffairs Thanks for the memories… now clean up your mess VA!”]

My big disappointment for the hearing was the weak and wispy Robert McKenrick (Mac). I hope he enjoys the fruits of his “good ole boy” good soldier testimony that undermined his earlier testimony.

But did you notice that he refused to answer the simple question early on, paraphrased, “Did you volunteer for the position?” He skated around questions related to that topic like the best at any Winter Olympics and should be ashamed. He failed his country by failing to give an honest answer.

Mac went back on his early testimony to VA OIG and was clearly afraid to provide straightforward testimony. He behavior was so pronounced that one former Capitol Hill staffer even commented that he should “grow a pair.” Rep. Colleen Brown (D-FL) even went as far as to call him a good “soldier” apparently alluding to his willingness to fall on the sword.

While his soul may torch in hell for being less than straight with Congress at the expense of veterans, I am sure he reserved a seat at the country club of his choice alongside other Federal employees.

Aside from Mac’s totally disappointing testimony, Antoine Waller gave relatively straight answers about how he was manipulated and forced to take a demotion to the Baltimore RO position. Danny Pummill, Principal Under Secretary for Benefits, in an honest moment, admitted that Graves took her position because she was ill equipped to handle problems on the East Coast. Former Under Secretary Allison Hickey wanted her removed from her post due to her inability to handle problems on the East Coast, including Philadelphia RO and Baltimore RO, two of the most troubled facilities in VA at this point.

RELATED: Why was Allison Hickey covering for Rubens, Graves?

Recently, reports have surfaced that Kim Graves benefited from the appointment of her former husband, Acting Under Secretary Michael Walcoff. Walcoff had run VBA before Allison Hickey took over. During that time, he appointed Kim Graves as head of East VBA. Rubens used to run West VBA.

After Graves appointment, she moved her office from Michigan to Philadelphia VA Regional Office.

How much did that cost taxpayers?

Walcoff and Graves were linked to cronyism in 2007 when reports surfaced that the duo collectively benefited from bonus schemes where they presided on the committees responsible for allocated the bonuses they received.

In this instance, the payment scheme VBA employees were running stemmed political parties and management changes post presidential elections. If that process cannot root out corruption, what will?

Source: https://www.startribune.com/embattled-st-paul-va-official-takes-the-fifth-amendment-before-a-house-panel/339673472/

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31 Comments

  1. Short , sweet and pretty spot on Ben. It was incredulous that those two women “took the 5th” but obviously that came due to some pinhead lawyer telling them too as I’m sure you guessed too. What Rep Miller should have done was make them both sit there the entire hearing and sweat it out as they listened to all the members spitting out shame on VA so they know their fate is coming down hard!
    I thought Waller said just enough to paint the picture of how bad they screwed him over, and why was Mac being thanked for “soldiering up” like you said? Ugh that guy is sticking a chicken neck out on a cutting board going to bat for those two idiots!
    As far as Colonel Pummill goes , I served w him in a few places in the Army and you won’t find a more truly honest man. I’m sure the sec and Gibson had spent hours w him going over what he could and couldn’t say but if you saw several times he really wanted to lay out facts but withheld -usually when he smiled or chuckled a bit. He is a stand up guy that just got caught in wrong place at wrong time since Gen Hickey moved him down there right before any of this crap happened. Hopefully he comes out clean!

    I think we’ve seen the days of under the table high fives and secret money pots gone and like you I’m anxious to see if doj wants anything to do w Rubens and Graves as they should not be entitled to retire w all pay and bennies and fade away into VA history like the many other scandals which seem to bounce back between VHA AND VBA so hold their feet to the fire folks and stand up and apologize in tears to all those you intentionally screwed over to move up the ses ladder while stepping on all their heads to stay afloat!
    Shame on you (n we better not hear any bs about discrimination against Gay & lesbians come out of her mouth either!)
    Phew

    • respectfully, there will always be corruption in an institution that has a Dynastic cycle similar to the Chinese Dynasties. I copied the Dynastic Cycle of the Chinese from WikiPedia. I changed the words to reflect the VA.

      These hearings are but one step in this cyclic process. Ask the Chinese how tough it was to break the cycle in their country. The VA is a Dynasty. That encompasses cronyism, favoritism, politics, etc. We will simply see the cycle repeat if we believe that jettisoning the rotten cargo will fix this. The cycle cannot be broken so long as the VA exists as it’s own entity. The more people you fire, the more vicious the cycle becomes.

      Here it is:

      The Dynastic Cycle of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs

      The dynastic cycle appears as follows:

      1. A new Secretary unites the VA, founds a new VA, and gains the approval of the President

      2. VA, under the new Secretary, achieves prosperity. The People are pleased. The VA budget increases.

      3. Corruption becomes rampant in the VA leadership positions, and the VA begins to enter decline and instability.

      4. A disaster (like a war) occurs, increasing workload. The disaster normally would not have been a problem; however, together with the corruption and over-staffing, it causes budget shortfalls.

      5. The shortfalls cause veterans to suffer and the population rebels;

      6. New politicians are elected.

      7. The Secretary loses the approval of the President.

      8. The VA staff decreases because of the internal VA turmoil.

      9. VA goes through an inter-departmental warring period.

      10. One department emerges victorious, the non-victorious (least vicious) depart, careers are ruined. The vicious are senior now and become leadership.

      11. The President hires a new Secretary of the VA.

      12. The Secretary receives orders to fix it all.

      (The cycle repeats itself.)

      • VA ONE BIG BIG FEDERAL RICO CRIME RACKET RUN FOR @ BY AFGE UNION CONTRACTS AGIN VETS YO SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SCREWED V BY VA DC HQ RICO CRIME RACKETS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • MR DIANE RUBENS YO NASTY BULL DYKE @ YOUR WIFE WILL BE IN FEDERAL PRISION SOON MR DIANE RUBENS US TAX PAYERS WILL GET THEIR $ 400,00 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ SOON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Let’s see here,
    Rubens and Graves plead the 5th, over & over & over, etc., etc., etc..
    McKendrick committed perjury. Oh wait, let’s call it what it is – he f**kin LIED.
    Col. Pummill, “somewhat” gave truthful answers. Wait one minute, isn’t giving partial testimony, not answering questions fully or just “smiling and laughing” when asked specific questions, the same as – “Lying”? That’s what a judge would call it. What a “stand up guy”!
    Seems Wolcoff and Graves have made a living out of getting bonuses, or whatever they want to call it, for a long time now. Evidently they know how to “Work the system to their advantage!” This not only screws veterans. It also screws taxpayers!
    So, now they all will be “called back”! Does anyone here see anything different going to happen then? Are these individuals SO damn powerful, the law means nothing to them?
    If that committee wants to really do something, put McKenrick in jail for perjury. Go after Rubens and Graves HARD with the DOJ, FBI or other law enforcement agencies…

    There’s always something that can take place where all these pukes will rue the day they were born. Law enforcement agencies have ways of making people understand the “errors of their way(s)”! And do it LEGALLY!!!

    Now we wait and see. Again and again and again…….
    WAKE UP AMERICA. VOTE ALL THESE PUKES OUT OF OFFICE.

    • Was anything brought up about Rubens going around the VA and laughing and saying things like, “Come and watch the show!” Bet there wasn’t.
      As far as lying goes. Down here in Florida, even if one lies to the media, let alone law enforcement, they go to jail. What makes these pukes “special”?

      Does anyone here remember the “Khaki Mafia”? They were high ranking NCO’s who were brought to trial over their involvement with the “black market” and the “illegal activities” concerning all “military clubs” (worldwide) during the Vietnam War. Many went to prison. The Sargent Major of the Army received a “Dishonorable Discharge” and was discredited for the rest of his miserable life!
      These pukes at VA remind me of them. How they thought they were “above the law”. Until shame, public pressure and public embarrassment brought them down. And some real great work by multiple law enforcement agencies.
      These types of things do work. Shame, public embarrassment and public pressure are what needs to stay in the forefront. Let’s keep it going.
      Let our “elected officials” know their jobs are on the line! We, voters all, do have the ability to make sure their jobs are not “for life”!

  3. Great cliff notes of meeting with video speed-up to emphasize the ridiculous waste of time and how it appears there’s a very good chance these fraudsters will receive at best, light slaps on wrist, if that, and totally enrages me that they are using the very Constitution that they took an OATH to PROTECT in order to conceal their fraud of tax payer dollars and blatant manipulation of the system for personal gain.

    You watch and wait for it…I am still thinking these two will try a “Sexual Preference Discrimination Claim” and maybe even all out suit of VA **if** they are actually punished. Hope not, but I see this coming and writing on the wall. The FBI and DOJ should have been there to escort them to their jail cells.

  4. That’s ok I’m moving back to TX today & ther’ye headaches are gonna start, they ain’t gonna wait until I die to admit I was exsposed to chemicals while serving my country! I was given a general discharge after I was told to break up 10 ton differentials because general hunter was visiting our post! I’m fucking sick of this shit! I was also told that if I joined the army my benefits would be paid for! I was 17 and my dad was present! He’s still alive & will testify to that fact! You lying pieces of shit ! I’m tired of it!

    • @Michael- Did you have your General Discharge upgraded to Honorable so you *can* receive benefits and make a claim for disability? Someone will correct me if wrong but am pretty confident you do need to have an Honorable Discharge to seek such benefits and Service-Connected Disability Claim. Good luck to you.

  5. This is hilarious! I contacted the head General Counsel’s office today to disclose to them that their VA lawyers are committing Brady and discovery violations in veterans complaints of due process. The lawyers are the issue of hiding criminal activity and collusion statues. The lady on the phone didn’t want to hear it. Bunch of liars and unethical to the max. They can dish it but can’t take it when they are called out on it!

  6. I can’t remember the exact words Ben said to me. So I’ll have to paraphrase.
    I once asked Ben, “Can VA be fixed?”
    His answer, even though I can’t remember his exact wording, was right on. (This is as close as I remember.)

    There’s always been corruption in governments. It’s just going to take “HOW much corruption will the people take.”

    I don’t know about y’all, but I’m getting pretty damned pissed about how our elected officials can’t, or won’t, or refuse to fix a simple problem. And
    These VA a$$holes that use the “Constitution” as a way to hide, or circumvent, their illegal activities has got to cease. And I mean NOW!
    Everyone of them should have been led off and put in cells until they were willing to admit to their criminal activities.
    Plus, all the bad VA employees, from top to bottom, needs an “enema”, as many on here have said.
    When employees in our governmental agencies start seeing their MANY coworkers going to jail, (for things they are also doing), I will guarantee corruption will cease. Or slow down dramatically.
    I also believe as namnibor does. Rubens and her “partner” will, if prosecuted or arrested, will claim some form of (sexual preference) discrimination suit. It’s the way things are done nowadays. The Obama administration has seen to that. If y’all haven’t seen what’s been going on, oh well.

    • The last (bowel movement) dropping from an elderly World War Two veteran into a VA bed pan has more integrity than those two harpies.

  7. Having also been present at the hearing last night and also seeing Rubens and Graves taking the fifth, Mckenrick being reminded of the possibility of perjury by the Chairman of the committee, Col Pumill, obviously having now been cornered by events into (and a fair assumption with all respect due to him) an overwhelming series of situations, as there are also other problems existing in regards to improper disposal of records (Los Vegas, also lightly touched on)..I had to leave the room for a brief time, as I was left to wonder, how could 2 employees with a possible agenda sandbag others so badly that they cost one (Allison Hickey) to resign, as she was trying to sort out a real mess with VBA, and had much to do with reducing backlog, and also straitening out many cases. while in touch via email, with fellow veterans..as she created access directly to her with notification through various veteran’s sites to include the Gulf War Veteran’s sites..I know many of us vets, are divided on whether to stand by Gen Hickey..but in light of the fact she did try to assist as best she could on behalf of our fellow veterans caught in a whirlwind, I am giving her the benefit of the doubt, as my impressions after last night’s hearing (Nov 3rd) was that possibly Hickey got sandbagged along with the Chief of Staff for the Secretary..seperating the wheat from the chaff is going to be a long process..and will hurt the cause of the vet for a long time come..Ben, there are some parts I agree with you in regards to this mess..but I have to disagree with you on having any empathy for Rubens or Graves..I could only hope the process evolves and we see a result irt those two, which now has again become another nightmare for all concerned on all sides..

  8. AGIN VETS VA ONE BIG BIG BIG FEDRAL RICO CRIME RACKET FROM AFGE UNION CONTRACTS HELL VETS YO ARE SOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo SCREWED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Well Ben, Sir.
    My offer of serving on the Firing Squad along with the Honor of administrating the “Coup De Gras” Is STILL On the table If the Piano wire option is considered too harsh For Diane Rubens. To speed the Slow turning wheels of Justice in the Federal Courts, As A Veteran, Now a Civilian, I`m making a Citizens Arrest for Contempt of Congress, As taking the “Fifth” Proves she`s Guilty. The Death Penalty will be the Punishment for Treason in time of War. A Soviet made Mosin-Nagant 91-30 7.62x54R Is an Appropriate “Tool” in this Case, And Finish her off with my M1911 A-1 Sidearm. So BOTH Her side & The American People will be represented. No charge to the American Tax payer, I`ll supply the Ammo for Both. As well as the Fuel, And Will meet you all in the Courtyard in 1.5 days as I cant get on a plane with my tools. That will put me there at 1800 hrs Thursday. From North Central Texas.

    I feel sure Chairman Jeff Miller will approve this Message.

    See you Thursday! Oh & Thank you for your hard work Sir.

    “Cotton” AKA: Handcannon72vet

  10. I still think there’s more of an underhanded ‘plea deal’ going on than what anyone will see from our stance, and it just makes me wonder WHY VA Sec. McDonald *was not there* at those hearings of such an important/public scandal that Gen. Hickey fell on her sword…but where’s McD in all this?
    Congress is not showing accountability, so like a 2 yr old that learns rather quickly that certain behaviors can evoke a response, the VA is going to continue to act like a demon child 2 yr old until Congress collectively gets some balls and deals with it.

    Earlier poster, “Cannon” made a very sobering point: Laws and Penalties while in Active War are actually quite to the point…sometimes lots of rope is required and some woodworking skills, 13 knots is a must…regulation. Yes…while at War, the penalties are indeed STIFF.

    Perhaps all these clowns in management need to be made to swear under oath as government employees working FOR and WITH Veterans, to be under the full UCMJ…screw the AFGE Union…they need discipline…UCMJ does that.

    Notice today’s Vet Committee/House topic is the VA and new IT integration, and tech $$$ contract crap…do not you think they should have made them come back EVERY DAY for even weeks if needed, and grill them, until they or Hickey break and give names so they will not be in a cell with Large Marge!????!?

    I just think Congress is being too ‘light’ on this or is the circus dance of preliminary hearings, investigations, committees, and other red tape spider web? What is suppose to be the process when someone is caught not only with fraud but fraud with tax payer $ that hurt or killed Veterans?

    Congress was not ballsy enough for my liking at all. Not one ounce of Bull Balls in that room. 🙂

    • I agree…Throw out Civil Service protections and institute UCMJ code of conduct to apply to ALL actions undertaken while working for VA…Including the ability to call beck into service to pay for sins before “retireing” (Read that as drop everything and running like hell”)

    • I just received the “military dot com” – “Daily News” article.
      In it those involved are “on the fast track of being fired!” Right now it’s in the “appeals process” because of the law that was made late last year.
      The article said that since it’s under appeal, they can’t talk about it “for seven days”. Evidently that’s all the time they get.
      If you get “Military dot com”, it’s in today’s (web)issue!

      I think the DOJ & FBI should prosecute the a$$hole biaches…..putting all in with BIG BURTHA ain’t a bad idea. But don’t you think Rubens might like that?

      • The title of the “Military . com article is;

        “Subpoenaed VA Officials Refuse to Testify at Congressional Hearing”
        3 Oct. 2015

      • Rubens (Butchie Boy) would look on that as a Perk!
        She`d think she was at Club-Med. Playin Flippy-Flop with Big Burtha.
        You may notice Both are Ms, Rubens,… Ms Graves…? Just Sayin…..

    • namnibor, I’m not sure, but I believe McDonald was/is out in Phoenix. I seem to remember something about a form of “townhall meeting” out there, for Nov. 2nd, because of a report coming out over the “Urology Dept.” coming under fire recently. Then that Former Army member, last name Cooper, “filing a $50 million lawsuit” a little over a week ago. I believe on the 26th of October. Because he was “misdiagnosed of cancer by a nurse” and is now on the fast track to Heaven, literally…….

      • Well, if you recall in this time since he has been VA Sec., it sure seems that whenever there’s a hearing about a VA scandal in D.C., he is almost always FAR away from the epicenter…like not long ago, his supposedly being in Hawaii “to end Vet Homelessness in HI” (we *never* heard what he did exactly, if anything nor a plan), then as far off as Alaska where it was made apparent that he was NOT welcomed.
        I have always been pretty good at picking-up patterns in all things, and am just stating Sec. McD. has established a pattern of being FAR away when trouble brews it’s head…and if he’s in Arizona, it’s probably ONLY to try to make the $50 Million Law Suit go away…nothing more or less. He did not seem interested in this Urology Scandal until a large lawsuit was brought to light.
        It’s way too obvious to me.
        The way things are going, McD is going to run out of “underlings” to send to the whipping post in D.C. and may just have to go to D.C. for once when he is NOT asking for more ca$h.

        What I am trying to say is…if anyone was the VA Sec. and wanted to take credit for at least legitimately starting to clean the ilk out of the VA, wouldn’t you want to make your face present at the very hearings to place leadership emphasis of how these violations are not being tolerated any longer?

        He’s not someone I would remotely call having leadership skills to the dysfunction junction he is in charge of. Over.

      • Good points namnibor.

        I guess, in reality, he’s just another pussy who can’t take the heat.
        He should have been in Washington for the execution of his peers though. I just hope more go down in the future.

  11. I just have one simple question. Who would lose if the people involved in this were told to hit the bricks (other than themselves, of course). It sounds like veterans would be better off, taxpayers would win, and their subordinates would benefit from truly qualified and engaged leadership.

    It’s so clearly the only commonsense solution that the VA will most likely never fire their corrupt, thieving backsides.

  12. Diana Ruben has been abusing our veterans for years! She has been brought before hearings multiple times and every time she has been proven to be a lying crook but she’s still there. Google Diana Ruben and watch the videos. It will make you sick. Why wasn’t this damn crook fired 5 years ago?!

  13. What a Country! I don’t see any difference from The “Sodoma and Gomora”
    story from the Old Testament! (except the STRAIGHT percentage, Hope WE are still the majority)
    Expect Surprises!
    MSG VAM

  14. It is unfortunate that many of the coworkers and employees who knew what was going on with Rubens and Graves and are now retired have tried to speak up in the early 2000s. Graves, in particular, has been promoted fast and furiously since she came to VA Central Office. There are many more corrupt managers that have not been named. Retired coworkers of these two and others, have been forced to retire early, or resign. We are now wondering what took so long for the OIG to investigate the relocation, moving and overall bonus schemes? These two need to be prosecuted fully with paying back the hundreds of thousands of dollars taken fm the taxpayers and if possible – incarcerated.

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