While claiming sick leave, one sick VA employee turned VA entrepreneur earned six months of sick leave at full pay earning $75,000 while he built his motorcycle business in Virginia.
Robert Gingell, a manager at the Board of Veterans Appeals, took six months off of work claiming he was very sick during 2015. He ultimately retired following the results of an investigation by OIG after working at VA for less than 5 years.
While away, he collected full pay for 22 weeks, which at GS-15 numbers, is around $75,000 or $140,000 per year. During his time away, he built a business called Renegade Classics Northern Virginia while being paid full-time despite being on sick leave.
RELATED: See Gingell’s Harley Motorcycle Shop
So how sick was Gingell when he was too ill to work at the Board but healthy enough to build his business? Did he have to pay the money back that he “earned” while he created the motorcycle shop? Does Gingell’s motorcycle shop look cool?
Before I jump into the full quote of the VA OIG investigation, I think the last paragraph sums up what this senior GS employee did at the Board before he “retired” from his post:
“On September 17, 2015, Mr. Gingell emailed an OGC HR Liaison, with the BVA Chief of HR on copy, and said, “I am writing because I intend to retire in the next few months. At this time I would like my retirement to be effective 2-1-16.” On Friday, September 18, 2015, Mr. Gingell received our OIG administrative subpoena to produce RCNV business records, and on Monday, September 21, 2015, he appeared at an HR Specialist’s office with retirement forms completed and signed, asking that his retirement be effective September 21, 2015.”
SICK VA EMPLOYEE/VA ENTREPRENEUR SCAM?
I will start from last to first.
Robert Gingell’s motorcycle shop looks pretty cool. I have to hand it to guy, he built a nice looking business on the side while too sick to work at the Board. Whatever way he got funding for the operation, he sure built up a solid looking apparel shop based on the photos.
VA OIG confirmed the allegations. OIG closed the investigation after confirming the allegations. Reports from alternative sources show Gingell was able keep the money.
VA OIG also confirmed Gingell was engaged in outside employment while on sick leave.
The really messed up part about this scandal was that after Gingell was basically caught, he put in his retirement papers for 2/1/16, basically six months after he was caught engaged in a fraud earning two paychecks while asserting he was too sick to push paper at BVA.
Here is the OIG summary:
In December 2014, the former (retired) Deputy Director, BVA Office of Management, Planning & Analysis, asked for an ethics opinion from the Office of General Counsel (OGC) concerning Mr. Gingell’s newly formed small business. In January 2015, the Deputy Ethics Official opined that Mr. Gingell’s small business did not appear to conflict with Mr. Gingell’s duties, but in his guidance to Mr. Gingell, he told Mr. Gingell to not make “unauthorized use of official time.” Mr. Gingell replied in an email that he would follow the listed guidelines.
Email records reflected that Mr. Gingell was in regular contact with the Deputy Director concerning his ongoing medical condition requiring sick leave. In February 2015, he began requesting sick leave, due to a cited medical condition. He submitted several physician notes to justify his prolonged absences. For example, on March 20, 2015, he emailed a note that stated he could not return to work until April 13, 2015. Although the heading on the note reflected a legitimate medical practice, the signature on the note was unrecognizable as either of the named practitioners.
By May 2015, the Deputy Director began to question Mr. Gingell’s fitness for duty, and she asked him in an email when he expected to return to work and asked for additional documentation. Mr. Gingell replied, “I’m likely going to either be back in mid-June or after the 4th of July on a limited schedule.” Records reflected that Mr. Gingell was not always timely with his sick leave request, and at times, required prompting by the Deputy Director. On June 15, 2015, the Deputy Director asked him in an email if he had medical documentation to cover his absences, and the next day, he emailed another physician’s note.
On August 13, 2015, Mr. Gingell emailed the Deputy Director to tell her that his physician gave him a letter asking that he “receive a reasonable accommodation and be allowed to work from home.” He said that he forwarded the letter to the BVA Chief of Human Resources (HR) and that since “accommodations take time to process and the letter clearly indicates that I should not be expected to commute I will be using sick leave until the request is acted upon.”
On August 18, 2015, the Deputy Director replied to Mr. Gingell, and she told him, “You separately informed me by email that you are requesting sick leave pending a decision on your [reasonable accommodation] request. I can approve your sick leave but I’ll need medical documentation to do so.” She included attachments for Mr. Gingell to fill out and instructions as to how to proceed with his RA request, including providing medical documentation.
Records reflected that Mr. Gingell failed to provide the Deputy Director and the Chief of HR all the requested information within the Deputy Director’s timeline. On September 4, 2015, she told Mr. Gingell in an email “I also asked you for medical documentation for [sick leave].
You did not provide medical documentation, but did submit a doctor’s statement that you could not commute. If you are actually incapacitated and requesting continuing [sick leave] independent of any reasonable accommodation request, then you need to tell me that, and you must submit (to [Name] as our Chief, Personnel) medical certification that says that you are incapacitated for work and the dates of incapacitation, as soon as possible and within 15 days after this email.” On September 9, Mr. Gingell replied by emailing his sick leave request.
Social media posts reflected that Mr. Gingell worked at RCNV while on sick leave.
Mr. Gingell can be seen working on renovations to his shop in preparation for its March 2015 opening and demonstrating products available at RCNV. On August 20, 2015, a BVA employee emailed the Deputy Director an internet link to an RCNV YouTube video titled,
Bob’s & Helen’s Welcome Video, which featured Mr. Gingell and his wife discussing the eminent grand opening of RCNV. The video was posted on March 23, 2015, and Mr. Gingell’s initial request for sick leave was 5 days prior to this posting.
On September 11, 2015, the Director, Management Planning & Analysis, Board of Veterans’
Appeals, told the Deputy Director in an email, “Please be advised that a Board employee reached out to me today and informed me that he (and a few others) visited Bob’s motorcycle store today, around 3p. The employee reported that he observed Bob working behind the counter.” On a separate occasion, a VA-OIG Investigator observed Mr. Gingell working at RCNV during his duty hours and while on sick leave, engaging him in conversation about specific products in his inventory.
On September 17, 2015, Mr. Gingell emailed an OGC HR Liaison, with the BVA Chief of HR on copy, and said, “I am writing because I intend to retire in the next few months. At this time I would like my retirement to be effective 2-1-16.” On Friday, September 18, 2015, Mr. Gingell received our OIG administrative subpoena to produce RCNV business records, and on Monday, September 21, 2015, he appeared at an HR Specialist’s office with retirement forms completed and signed, asking that his retirement be effective September 21, 2015.
I will say one thing. When will we all apply for a sweet VA job to start our own business? That sounds like the newest SBA fund where you never have to pay back the money or show up to your other job… And, you can retire after working just a couple years.
Let’s start applying to these sweet jobs. I could get paid $140,000 per year to start small business on sick leave and then retire after a couple years. I feel it could really be the start of a new great thing.
What do you think?