A congressional committee said Thursday it will hold a hearing on allegations that senior officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs - including the director of the Philadelphia benefits office - misused the agency's relocation program for their own gain.
The news came three days after the VA's top watchdog asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Diana Rubens, the Philadelphia director, broke the law by orchestrating her reassignment to the job and then had the agency pay almost $300,000 to relocate her from Virginia to Havertown, Delaware County.
Rubens will be among those called to answer questions at the Oct. 21 hearing, said Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Also on the prospective witness list are her predecessor, Robert McKenrick; Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey; and Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday, whose investigation and report sparked the congressional hearing.
In a statement, Miller said the inspector general's report showed "serious misuse" of taxpayer dollars.
"It is clear from the report that senior leaders doled out outrageously generous relocation expense benefits as if they were an entitlement or perk of employment," he said.
The hearing will be the fourth the committee has called to investigate problems at the Philadelphia benefits office since the facility came under fire last summer.
The office has been described as the most troubled benefits office in the country. VA officials have said Rubens was moved from a job at the agency's Washington headquarters to the Germantown office in June 2014 to right the ship.
In Monday's report, Halliday accused Rubens of helping facilitate the transfer of the former director, McKenrick, to the VA's Los Angeles office so she could take his Philadelphia job, which allowed her to be closer to family.
The position has substantially less responsibilities than her old post, but her $181,000 salary did not change.
Halliday also faulted the VA's relocation program as a whole, saying the agency had used relocating senior executives as a "method to justify annual salary increases."
Rubens has not spoken publicly since the report, and VA officials have declined to comment on her status - other than to say the agency will determine whether any disciplinary action is warranted.