Sen. Chuck Grassley accused the newest VA Undersecretary for Benefits nominee of giving “evasive answers” on a number of agency corruption questions.
Joshua Jacobs is the newest nominee running into delays. At the core of the current delay is a denial Jacobs provided Sen. Grassley that appears evasive at best.
Grassley wanted to know what role if any Jacobs played in VA (not) timely answering inquiries from Sen. Grassley’s office about corruption. Jacobs denied “any” involvement in the agency’s response to Sen. Grassley’s inquiries into agency misconduct, but an email he sent in 2021 suggests there is more to the story.
Now, his Senate confirmation is on hold until members either blow off Sen. Grassley’s concerns or more information is provided.
Who Is The Undersecretary For Benefits?
The role of VA Undersecretary for Benefits is the official responsible for the administration of benefits within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). This official reports to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Presently, the role if being fulfilled to the extent delegable by the current nominee, Joshua Jacobs, in addition to his role as senior advisor to the Secretary for policy. The Undersecretary for Benefits is responsible for managing 25,000 agency employees, contractors, and administering over $130 billion in benefits.
VBA is historically corrupt with rampant whistleblower retaliation, cover-ups, botched benefits deliveries, wasted tax dollars on contractor led programs, you name it. The corruption is so bad the previous administrations struggled to find an Undersecretary willing to risk their career and reputation to lead it.
Sen. Grassley has placed the nomination of Jacobs on hold alleging the nominees answers to Senate questions were evasive and lacked transparency.
“Because of VA’s lack of transparency on these critical issues and Mr. Jacobs’ evasive answers on a number of my questions, I must therefore object to any consideration of this nominee. I am more than willing to discuss with the VA and Mr. Jacobs how they can remedy the deficiencies in their responses.
“This hold is a reminder that executive agencies have an ongoing obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a full and timely manner.”
As an example, Sen. Grassley’s publication of the answers yesterday listed numerous questions. The entire list of 9 questions and answers are at the bottom of this article, but #5 contained information that seems to have concerned Sen. Gressley the most.
Jacobs told the Senate he “did not play any role” in the agency’s responses to Grassley’s inquiries.
Yet, an email he sent at the time shows the role he played included gathering information directly from a caller about “a Grassley issue,” that may be the same as a separate Grassley issue.
At issue here is how Jacobs defined “role” for in his answer. The term likely was narrowly defined by VA attorneys to only providing the physical response.
Notable is what Jacobs did after he fielded the call about a Grassley issue in 2021 that was released in a FOIA after Jacobs provided his response to the Committee.
Jacobs shared that information with senior VA advisors by email. The list of recipients included special counsel Tahmika Jackson, a former counterterrorism senior leader for National Security Agency who coordinated “real-time counterterrorism situational awareness and crisis response” for the agency.
Given the historic problems VA faces managing or preventing whistleblower retaliation, the exchange and background of players suggests the agency has employed the skills of senior three-letter agency attorneys to help manage leaks rather than prevent retaliation.
But the omission may not stop Jacobs’ possible bi-partisan confirmation.
According to Jason Foster on Twitter:
Full disclosure: I met with Jacobs in 2012 with Veterans For Common Sense while stumping at the Capitol. He was Deputy Director of the Senate Committee for Veterans Affairs working with Sen. Patty Murray. Jacobs was one of the few Senate staffers who seemed willing to help reform the agency.
That was 2012 after he worked 9 years as a Senate staffer.
Jacobs then transitioned to VA. He worked under the Obama Administration as a senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary of VA from 2013 to 2017. In my mind, the 2013 to 2017 Obama Administration scandals are the biggest roadblock to Jacobs’ nomination.
What was his role during that time? How did VA leadership evade accountability? Why were former VA leaders linked to corruption investigations allowed to come back as contractors to fix the same benefits systems that were broken under their leadership?
A little digging revealed Jacobs first worked under former Secretary Eric Shinseki who quickly left when the waitlist scandal was exposed. Jacobs then servied as senior advisor at VA on Veterans Benefits Administration as part of the leadership team advising Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and Secretary Robert McDonald.
What happened between then and now?
A quick look at articles and headlines reveals a lot. While none of these reference Jacobs, they do reference programs, agencies, and at least one company linked to Jacobs. If confirmed, he will now oversee billions in benefits and contracts being administered by these same entitites.
Thus, it is vital for the Senate to learn of Jacobs involvement, or lack thereof, in addressing these systemic problems to learn whether he is the right person to fix the issues. Or, more pointedley, whether he was involved, directly or indirectly, in not fixing the problems.
Personnel And/Or Contractor Linked VA Scandals
Many of my readers here recall the mountain of scandals that came out of the agency during that time:
- VA Waitlist Scandal
- Veterans Claims Backlog Scandal
- VBA Veterans Claims Documents Shredding Scandal
- GI Bill Software Processing Scandal (half the time it works every time)
- Veterans Appeals Backlog Scandal
- Whitewash of Many Scandals by former VA OIG head Richard Griffin
- Unrepentent Whistleblower Retaliation
- VA Fueling Of Opioid Crisis
- Pheonix VA Medical Center Deaths
Jacobs then worked at the leading agency contractor Booz Allen Hamilton during the Trump years. He returned to VA in 2021 immediately after the Biden Administration took over. Jacobs started running Veterans Benefits Administration eight months ago in a delegated capacity.
During this last period, 2017-2023, Booz Allen Hamilton has been awarded a number of high profile contracts while also serving contracts linked to benefits adjudication problems:
- GAO Rules Booz Allen Has No Conflict In $860M VA Award
- Why The VA Paid A 29% Premium To Hire Booz Allen
- VA Awards $1.1 Billion Benefits Management Contract To Booz Allen
- Forever GI Bill Implementation Failed Because No One Was In Charge, Says IG
- VA IG: Decentralization To Blame For Housing Stipend, IT Shortfalls
- Veterans Affairs Official Reassigned After House Hearing Over Delayed GI Bill Benefits
Not to say Jacbos is inovled in any of these scandals or implementation of Booz Allen contracted services, but the Senate should verify before confirmation.
Veterans deserve an independent and competent leader to run Veterans Benefits Administration. It is the Senate’s job to evaluate whether Jacobs has enough integrity to root out agency corruption and avoid cronyism.
27 Inquiries From Chuck Grassley
For years, agency officials evaded Senator Chuck Grassley’s requests for information on corruption investigations. In the nomination process, the agency has refused to provide transparent or non-evasive answers resulting in the hold.
That hold may be more of a gesture at this stage since reports are circuling that Jacobs will get approved.
In a confirmation hearing, Sen. Grassley said, “Because of VA’s lack of transparency on these critical issues and Mr. Jacobs’ evasive answers on a number of my questions, I must therefore object to any consideration of this nominee.”
There are reportedly at least 27 outstanding requests for information VA either inadequately addressed or failed to address at all.
Jacobs is currently performing the delegable duties of Undersecretary for Benefits leading over 25,000 employees administering $135 billion in benefits. Nearly 6 million veterans and their family members rely on the Undersecretary solving agency corruption problems.
Meanwhile, the agency seems to be fighting corruption without transparency while allowing those who retaliate against whistleblowers to maintain senior positions of authority.
Jacobs is considered an entrenched VA insider who probably knows where many of the skeletons are buried. His confirmation may go through despite the hold, but Sen. Grassley is at least giving it a good college try to solicit frank answers from the agency that promises transparency but frequently fails to deliver.
Yesterday, Sen. Grassley’s office posted the answers Jacobs provided based on the metadata of the PDF (Grassley’s website suggests it was received March 2, 2023).
Part of what Grassley is upset with were evasive answers provided including redacted communications between Jacobs and other agency officials.
RELATED: Grassley Answers From Joshua Jacobs
Of concern here is whether Jacobs will address corruption from within the agency concerning retaliation and other issues under a similar organizational structure that evaded accountability until 2017.
You will see my two cents, in italics, added below Jacobs’ answers where relevant.
VA, Jacobs’ Answers To Grassley Questions
Senator Charles Grassley Questions for the Record Joshua Jacobs Nominee, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
1. As senior advisor to four VA secretaries, you have had a firsthand seat to the VA’s series of scandals and breach of public trust. Did you play any role in advising the Secretary of VA in the following crises? If so, please describe that role.
a. The 2014 Phoenix wait list scandal that led to the deaths of many U.S. Armed Services veterans, who died waiting for care at VA facilities, and subsequent whistleblower retaliation of employees that alerted the public;
As Senior Advisor for Benefits in 2014, my portfolio primarily focused on disability claims issues and the provision of other earned non-medical benefits provided by the Veterans Benefits Administration. Following the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, I did provide advice focused on expanding the delivery of healthcare in both the VA and community care settings.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: The Senator should ask what advice Jacobs provided Sloan and McDonald about the waitlist scandal, backlog scandal, and treatment of whistleblowers who exposed those scandals. Veterans Choice and the Mission Act implementation of community care has been a boondogle. It is well known some VA leaders refuse to process community care requests properly or to address improper billing of chosen contractors administering the programs. What measurable, specific steps did Jacobs take in addressing these issues?
b. The veteran claims backlog, which currently stands at about 743,000 pending claims;
I previously served as Senior Advisor for Benefits. When I arrived in 2013, the disability claims backlog was near its peak, but through collaboration with VBA, we implemented a series of solutions that helped drive down the backlog by 90%. This experience led me to appreciate the scope and scale of the challenges VA faces in the delivery of benefits and the dedication it takes for employees to accomplish this noble mission.
As of February 17, 2023, the disability claims inventory is 740,908, while the disability claims backlog is 194,301.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This response fails to address systemic failures of government contractors relied on to fix the backlog issues through the past decade. Many of the same leaders who failed to address problems efficiently are still employed in senior leadership roles within VA. Why? Jacobs does not address the Field Office strategy of pushing improperly developed claims through the process resulting in the current Board of Veterans Appeals backlog. Senatory Grassley should ask Jacobs why claims and appeals backlogst still exist despite the record spending for contractors to fix the problems over the past decade. What else does VA really need?
c. Poor quality processing on military sexual trauma cases, which VA OIG in 2018 reported were erroneously adjudicated by VA 49 percent of the time;
Survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) often carry the scars of what they endured for the rest of their lives. Due to the personal and sensitive nature of MST stressors, victims find it difficult to report or document these events. Due to this fact, it is often difficult to establish the occurrence of the stressor. During my time as Senior Advisor for Benefits, I was involved in discussions focused on lowering the evidentiary threshold and improving training relating to MST claims.
I am aware of the previous VA Office of Inspector General reports that have shown VBA has wrongly denied veterans’ disability claims for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related to MST at unacceptably high rates. Since assuming the role of Senior Advisor for Policy Performing the Delegable Duties of the Under Secretary for Benefits, I have spoken directly to VA Inspector General Mike Missal about the reports.
If confirmed, I will commit to continuing to improve how VBA processes MST claims and work with Veteran advocates to ensure veterans with MST get a fair review, even if they cannot produce formal evidence to support an MST claim.
d. GI Bill modernization delays;
I did not provide advice regarding GI Bill modernization delays.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Jacobs’ former employer Booz Allen was intimately involved in contracts aimed at correcting GI Bill processing problems. Various reports suggest Booz Allen’s services coupled with problems communicating with VA officials resulted in benefits failures. Sen. Grassley should ask what role if any did Jacobs play in various contracts awarded to VA from 2017 to 2021.
e. Ethics violations of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) senior leaders; and
I did not provide advice on ethics violations of VBA senior leaders.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Why not? Jacobs was a senior advisor to the Secretary. Why did he stand by while numerous ethical violations were happening without lending appropriate advice? Or, why was Jacobs so utterly unsuccessful in addressing ethical violations despite giving no advice to the Secretary?
f. The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) report substantiating Ms. Charmain Bogue’s conflicts of interest.
I did not provide advice regarding the VA OIG report involving Ms. Bogue.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: While Jacobs did not provide “advice” regarding OIG’s report, did he provide advice to the Secretary or anyone else about the scandal addressed in the report?
2. As a senior advisor to multiple VA secretaries, have you witnessed or engaged in any deliberate agency delays in releasing VA OIG reports or administrative investigation findings that do not favor the VA? If so, please describe.
No, I have not witnessed or engaged in any deliberate agency delays in releasing VA OIG reports or administrative findings.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: While Jacobs did not witness or engage in certain conduct, he narrowed the answer to “deliberate agency delays”. What other kinds of delays are there that he may have witnessed?
3. Have you seen or engaged in deliberate delays of congressional inquiries? If so, please describe.
No, I have not seen or engaged in deliberate delays of congressional inquiries.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This question and answer seem to leave open room for ambiguity where Jacobs may not have engaged in conduct resulting in “deliberate” delays, but he may have contributed to delays implicated in Sen. Grassley’s investigations.
4. I have repeatedly called upon the VA to respond to my inquiries regarding ethics violations within the Veterans Benefits Administration. Freedom of Information Act productions have been released to the public, yet limited and narrow information has been produced to me. Is it ever acceptable for an agency to refuse to provide materials to members of Congress based upon their minority-party status, chairmanship status, or to treat member requests as Freedom of Information Act requests? If so, please explain the basis of your position.
If confirmed, I commit to responding to requests for information from the Committee and other members, consistent with executive branch policies and practices.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Note that it appears from the FOIA email response that VA, including Jacobs, may have had more knowledge about inappropriate ethics behavior and previously failed to be transparent in answering questions from Sen. Grassley’s office.
5. A report issued last year by the VA OIG substantiated allegations by whistleblowers that Ms. Charmain Bogue failed to recuse herself from matters related to her spouse and his employer. She broke conflict of interest rules. VA’s Freedom of Information Act productions appear to substantiate that VBA senior leaders knew about Mrs. Bogue’s need to recuse and actively prevented adherence to VA Ethics counsel recommendations. There is some indication in the records that VBA leaders may also have engaged in whistleblower retaliation or failed to discipline those who did. Many of these leaders remain at VBA and are, allegedly, members of your senior executive cadre. They include Mike Frueh, your principal deputy; Tom Murphy, your Northeast District Director; Rob Reynolds, Deputy Undersecretary for Disability Assistance; and Robert Worley, Director of the Houston Regional Office.
a. I have repeatedly sought information on these issues since April 2021, yet VA has refused to answer most of my investigative inquiries and questions. Given your role as senior advisor to multiple VA secretaries, did you play any role in the VA’s response to me, and if so, did you know about or participate in the VA’s decision not to answer my questions?
No, I did not play any role in VA’s response to you regarding these issues.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Sen. Grassley’s team secured interagency correspondence suggesting Jacobs did play a role in VA’s response.
b. How will you ensure proper investigations take place and that all members, regardless of party affiliation or chairmanship status, have their inquiries answered in a timely manner?
During the nine years I spent working in the Senate, including as Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), I had the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with members and staff from both parties, as well as Veterans Service Organizations, to perform critical oversight and enact legislation that improved benefits and services for Veterans. I understand and deeply respect the dedication and spirit of cooperation members demonstrate to get the job done for Veterans. And if confirmed, I – as a proud alumnus of the Senate — look forward to working collaboratively with all members of Congress to provide timely and accurate responses to your inquiries.
c. As the Acting Undersecretary, you presumably can open investigations into these matters without waiting for congressional oversight requests. Will you agree to do so?
In cases where there are concerns about unlawful activity, potential violations of rules or regulations, fraud, waste, and abuse, or retaliation for raising these types of concerns, I will contact the appropriate independent investigatory body, which may include organizations such as the VA Office of Inspector General, VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, or U.S Office of Special Counsel.
6. Mr. Tom Murphy stated in an email to Secretary McDonough that allegations regarding his NASCAR travel ethics violation and Ms. Bogue’s conflicts of interest stemmed from one whistleblower he removed from federal service for technical administrative violations. Allegations dismissed by Mr. Murphy to Secretary McDonough have been substantiated as accurate by OIG and administrative investigations.
a. What steps has VA taken to look into potential whistleblower retaliation by Mr. Murphy or VA staff?
It is my understanding that the VA OIG and OAWP have both conducted investigations relating to Ms. Bogue and Mr. Murphy. However, in light of your concern, I have forwarded your letter to OAWP and noted for them the allegation of potential whistleblower retaliation by Mr. Murphy.
b. Have you ever fired someone you suspected to be a whistleblower? If so, please provide a response with all details directly to my office so that we may make any needed redactions to protect alleged whistleblowers. If you answer affirmatively to this question, please note in your written response that you have provided detailed information separately.
No. I have never fired someone suspected to be a whistleblower.
c. Have you ever promoted, reassigned, or been involved in the selection for public office of anyone you knew had fired a suspected whistleblower? If so, please provide a response with all details directly to my office so that we may make any needed redactions to protect alleged whistleblowers. If you answer affirmatively to this question, please note in your written response that you have provided detailed information separately.
No. I have never promoted, reassigned, or been involved in the selection for public office of anyone I knew had fired a suspected whistleblower.
d. I have repeatedly stated that multiple whistleblowers have engaged my office and asked that the VA protect those harmed by retaliation. Do you agree with the VA’s lack of responsiveness to my requests?
I am not familiar with the requests you are referencing or the responsiveness of VA to these requests. However, as the senior-most accountable official in the Veterans Benefits Administration, it is incumbent on the Under Secretary for Benefits (USB) to lead by example. The USB is responsible for setting the tone of the organization, fostering a culture where people feel free to report any potential wrongdoing that occurs and set clear expectations.
The USB must clearly articulate to the broad leadership team – both in headquarters and field offices – the expectation that all employees are free to and encouraged to report violations of any law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The USB must also provide meaningful support to employees and leaders that speak up and celebrate their willingness to improve outcomes for those we serve.
e. Mr. Murphy openly admitted to removing a whistleblower from federal service. What steps will you take to investigate this matter?
As noted above, I have forwarded your letter with its allegation of potential whistleblower retaliation to OAWP.
7. Many of the senior executives referenced in question four were allegedly hired or promoted into their positions by former Undersecretary of Benefits Allison Hickey and Acting Undersecretary of Benefits Danny Pummill.
a. Were you a senior advisor during the tenure of these individuals, and did you work closely with them?
As Senior Advisor, I participated in meetings with Brig. Gen. Hickey, USAF (Ret) and Mr. Pummill.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: The answer is evasive as it failed to address whether Jacobs worked “closely” with either Hickey or Pummill while a senior advisor. Sen. Grassley should drill down into this answer.
b. Did you work with them after leaving the VA during your job at Booz Allen Hamilton?
No. I did not work with Brig. Gen. Hickey, USAF (Ret) and Mr. Pummill during my job at Booz Allen Hamilton.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This answer seems evasive as both former heads of Veterans Benefits Administration formed companies that were awarded contracts for VBA projects after leaving the agency. Sen. Grassley should ask about Jacobs involvement in the contract negotiation or implementation related to either of these companies as a contractor or subcontractor. It seems likely Jacobs may not work directly with the individuals, but that does not mean he was not involved.
c. Have you ever received any disclosures by employees or external whistleblowers regarding alleged improprieties or unethical behavior by Mr. Pummill, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Manker, Mr. Frueh, or Ms. Bogue? If so, how did you assist?
Yes, after I started my role as Senior Advisor for Policy Performing the Delegable Duties of the Under Secretary for Benefits, I was notified of an allegation of sexual harassment against a senior VBA leader. Prior to my assuming the role, the allegation had been referred to the Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI), which conducted a fact-finding inquiry. Pursuant to the recommendation of ORMDI, I am supporting possible resolution of this case through mediation, which is in the process of being scheduled.
8. The VA OIG reported in 2019 on the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) being fraught with challenges, including running biased investigations, using its powers to retaliate against whistleblowers, and failing to hold leaders accountable for wrongdoing. In fact, during the period in question, OAWP’s own leadership team was found by the VA OIG to have been complicit in steering contracts to friends and referred to the DOJ.
a. Are you aware of these facts?
I am aware of the 2019 VA OIG report on the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
b. What has VA done to rectify these shortcomings?
I am informed that the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) has made great strides since the 2019 VA OIG report. It has positioned itself to not only conduct fair and unbiased investigations, based on industry-standard procedures, but to fulfill its full statutory mandate and execute on the tools that Congress provided to VA when it established OAWP. All recommendations made by the VA OIG in its report were closed as of 2021. Since then, OAWP has been focused on continuous improvement of its Investigations Division that has improved timeliness and materially improved management acceptance of its recommendations. While OAWP’s investigative function remains important, the current phase of OAWP’s growth also has emphasized cultural change, including a robust outreach and training strategy, operationalizing its Compliance Directive which has conducted reviews enabling advice to the Secretary on matters of public import, and trend analysis to enable proactive efforts in areas that may need to be addressed.
9. I have received credible allegations that former VBA officials may have disregarded ethics rules and not maintained acquisition integrity in entering into certain contracts. In light of substantiated ethics violations during the leadership tenure of Mr. Murphy and Ms. Bogue and their role in the award of $453 million Recovery Act dollars for the GI Bill IT modernization project, the VA OIG must investigate the propriety of awards related to this project.
a. Based upon your personal knowledge, what role did each of these individuals have in steering these contract awards?
I do not have personal knowledge about the role played by Mr. Murphy or Ms. Bogue with respect to the GI Bill IT modernization project.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Interesting question and answer. Sen. Grassley should dig deeper into other forms of knowledge outside of “personal” knowledge. Note that Jacobs’ former employer Booz Allen serviced multiple contract vehicles to update or fix problems with the GI Bill systems implicated in the Murphy and Bogue line of questioning.
b. What was their role in determining which contractors or subcontractors would be selected, and in selecting the evaluation body reviewing the bid?
I do not have personal knowledge about the role played by Mr. Murphy or Ms. Bogue with respect to the GI Bill IT modernization project.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: Interesting question and answer. Sen. Grassley should dig deeper into other forms of knowledge outside of “personal” knowledge.
c. Are you aware that former Undersecretaries Pummill and Hickey are direct beneficiaries of this contract?
I do not have personal knowledge about whether Brig. Gen. Hickey, USAF (Ret) and Mr. Pummill were involved in this contract.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This answer is an evasion as Sen. Grassley did not ask whether Jacobs has “personal knowledge” about Pummill’s or Hickey’s involvement in the GI Bill contract. Instead, the Senator asked if Jacobs was “aware” the two former VBA Undersecretaries were beneficiaries of the contract that is linked to Booz Allen.
d. According to USSpending.gov, tens of millions of dollars have been allocated in contracts to their privately held companies. Does this raise concerns for you?
I would be concerned if these contracts, or any others, did not follow the regular fair and competitive federal procurement process.
On February 14, 2023, VBA’s chief of staff sent an email to VBA leadership reinforcing the need to both stay within the legal bounds of federal procurement, while also considering the ethicality of our actions and decisions. This message, which was sent at my request, also instructed the supervisors of the Acquisition Directorate to report any instance in which a contracting officer is feeling pressured to make decisions that are not consistent with FAR requirements or sound business practices.
e. Have there been allegations or concerns regarding acquisition improprieties by Mr. Pummill or Ms. Hickey in the past? If so, were they investigated?
I do not have any personal knowledge of any allegations or concerns regarding acquisition improprieties by Brig. Gen. Hickey, USAF (Ret) or Mr. Pummill.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This answer is an evasion as Sen. Grassley did not ask whether Jacobs has “personal knowledge” about acquisition improprieties by these two prior senior VA leaders.
f. Were you aware during your time as Senior Advisor to multiple VA secretaries of any concerns regarding contract irregularities by VBA, including diversion of funds away from VBA programs intended to support Veterans by either Ms. Hickey or Mr. Pummill, or the redirection of funds away from the Education/GI Bill?
During my time as senior advisor, I was not aware of any contracting irregularities involving Brig. Gen. Hickey, USAF (Ret) or Mr. Pummill.
g. How do you and your staff maintain proper distance between VA matters and former officials now seeking VA contracts?
I do not engage in any contract or procurement related conversations with former officials. As noted earlier, I also had a message recently sent to VBA leadership, including my staff, reinforcing the importance to adhering to all legal requirements relating to federal procurement.
h. Are there currently recusals in place by you or your leadership team? If so, please provide all records.
In connection with the nomination process, I have consulted with the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Veterans Affairs Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) to identify potential conflicts of interest. Any potential conflicts of interest will be resolved in accordance with the terms of an ethics agreement that I have entered into with the Department’s DAEO and that has been provided to the Committee. I am not aware of any other potential conflicts of interest.
KRAUSE TWO CENTS: This answer demonstrates Jacobs is aware of at least one “potential” conflict of interest that “will be resolved” meaning it likely had not been resolved prior to providing Sen. Grassley with the answers requested.