More than two-thirds of the $301,000 spent to relocate a senior Veterans Affairs manager to Philadelphia last summer went to a government contractor that bought her Virginia home when it didn't sell, according to agency officials.
Diana Rubens, director of the Philadelphia VA benefits office, received about $80,000 of the expense payment, officials said.
The reimbursement details, released in a letter from a VA official to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, clarified one issue for which the Philadelphia VA Regional Office has drawn scrutiny - and may get more during a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday.
Still the explanation did little to satisfy the committee's chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), who called the home-buying program a "scheme in which everyone but the taxpayer wins."
In a statement, Miller said the payment of "such an outrageous amount in relocation expenses at a time when the department is continually telling Congress and taxpayers it needs more money raises questions about VA's commitment to fiscal responsibility, transparency and true reform." Questions about Rubens' reimbursement emerged earlier this month. A VA spokesman at the time called the moving expenses - first reported to be $288,000 - "appropriate" but declined to provide an itemized breakdown.
Details of those costs, provided Monday in the letter from Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey to Miller, show the total relocation expense was actually $301,000.
Rubens received less than a third of that. She was reimbursed $15,812 for "subsistence and temporary expenses," $11,678 for shipment of goods, $11,768 for storage of goods, and $15,291 for a "relocation income tax allowance," among other expenses.
The largest single amount, $211,000, was paid to a contractor through the VA's Appraised Value Offer program. The program, used to attract applicants to positions considered hard to fill, allows employees to sell their home to a government contractor if it doesn't sell in 60 days.
The letter didn't identify the contractor, but the VA website identifies it as Brookfield Relocation.
Rubens did not respond to a request for comment made through her office spokeswoman.