WASHINGTON – Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to not transfer Kim Graves, the embattled former chief of the St. Paul Regional Benefits Office, to Phoenix because she said that facility already has enough problems.
In a letter to VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, Kirkpatrick said she was appalled by the findings of the VA Office of the Inspector General regarding Graves’ conduct.
The inspector general alleges that Graves orchestrated a move from the East Coast to Minnesota. Graves received $130,000 in government-paid moving expenses and retained her $173,000 salary, even though she took a lower-level position with fewer responsibilities.
The VA attempted to demote Graves to a lesser job in Phoenix and give her a pay cut. Graves appealed that decision, and VA officials acknowledged botching the paperwork in that demotion last week. For now, the move is on hold until VA can get the paperwork straight.
Kirkpatrick is pushing back on the demotion.
“I am adamantly opposed to any future decision to transfer Ms. Graves to Phoenix,” she wrote to Gibson. “The Phoenix VA Health Care System was at the epicenter of the VA scandal and has since demonstrated ongoing systemic problems. After two years of hearings addressing these problems, the decision to transfer Ms. Graves to Phoenix was irresponsible and frankly offensive.”
The Phoenix VA facility has been embroiled in a two-year management scandal involving chronicle long wait times for veterans.
Earlier this week, Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, alleged VA Secretary Robert McDonald has not used his proper authority to fire administrators found to be incompetent.
The VA has not yet responded to Kirkpatrick’s letter.