Officials from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs testified before the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Kind of, anyways. You see, there’s this Fifth Amendment thing that says people don’t have to give testimony that would incriminate themselves.
“Sir, I’ve been advised by counsel not to answer that question to protect my rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,” [Philadelphia and Wilmington VA regional offices director Diana] Rubens repeated multiple times.
The five employees from the VA involved in the incident appeared Monday evening before HVAC under subpoena. The subpoena to appear — the first ever issued in the committee’s history — was deemed necessary because the VA did not allow the witnesses to show up to the first hearing on the subject.
Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller opened the hearing like this:
“I want to make it clear that requiring these individuals or any individual to appear before us today is not done to embarrass them as some have asserted,” Miller said Monday at the hearing. “They are here before us today because they are the subjects of this damning report, which was completed at this committee’s request.”
“This hearing is not a joke, and Ms. Rubens, despite what you reportedly told some of your employees, this is not a show,” Miller added, referring to one of the senior officials named in the report as an abuser of taxpayer funds.
This was just the latest in a scandal that rocked the institution charged with helping American veterans with healthcare, mental health treatment, and numerous other program.
Now, Rubens has the right to use the Fifth Amendment. However, it’s also an admission that she did something that would incriminate herself in some wrongdoing. In Rubens’ case, the issue stems for allegations of abusing the relocation program. She and St. Paul VA regional office director Kimberly Graves are alleged to have abused the system to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, all during a time of salary caps.
Former Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey retired after she was named in the report as having facilitated the alleged abuse.
Many hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s what these schemes are alleged to have taken out of the VA’s coffers. How many veterans could have used that money? How many men and women would be able to sleep a bit better tonight because they’d been able to get the treatment they needed for their PTSD? How many amputees have had to deal with ill-fitting prosthetics while waiting for new limbs? How many of our veterans died because they couldn’t get the help they needed?
Those hundreds of thousands of dollars could have helped a lot of people, people who volunteered to put themselves in harms way simply because their nation needed them. Whether you agree with the wars is irrelevant. They served, and they deserve better from their government.
But hey, at least people like Rubens and Graves got a few bucks (allegedly) to make their lives a little easier. We guess that’s the important thing; at least, to them.
Both Rubens and Graves’ cases have been referred to the US Attorney’s office for possible prosecution.