The director of the Philadelphia VA regional benefits office was paid $288,000 in “relocation payments” to move the 140 miles from Washington, D.C. to her new home last year.
Diana Rubens was tapped last June to take over the Philadelphia regional benefits office, which is one of many VA hospitals and benefits offices currently being investigated over benefits claims.
Rubens, who previously served as the D.C.-based deputy undersecretary for field operations, where she oversaw 57 regional offices, was brought in to help fix the embattled Philadelphia facility.
A breakdown of Rubens’ “relocation payments” was not immediately available, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but a VA spokesman said that there was nothing inappropriate with the spending.
Federal regulations allow for the reimbursement of relocation expenses including the “costs of house-hunting, moving, terminating leases, and a per-diem rate for meals and temporary housing for an employee and his or her family,” the spokesman said.
But that hefty repayment is nearly 160 percent of what Rubens earned in base pay all of last year, raising questions over what exactly that money could have gone towards.
Rubens was paid more than $181,000 in 2014, according to the website FedSmith.com, which maintains a database of federal employee compensation.
“The government shouldn’t be in the business of doling out hundreds of thousands in cash to extremely well-compensated executives just to move less than three hours down the road,” Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told the Inquirer.
“For VA to pay 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.”
Rubens has been mentioned before in articles criticizing other money she’s been paid by the VA. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, in 2011, she received a bonus of more than $23,000 even though patient backlogs – one area Rubens was in charge of managing – increased by 300,000.
The Washington Examiner reported last year that Rubens received more than $97,000 in bonuses between 2007 and 2011 even though the average time to process veterans’ claims doubled to 325 days on her watch. The ratio of backlogged cases nearly doubled as well, from 37 percent in 2009 to 71 percent in 2013.
Abandon all hope, ye who happen to park anywhere near geometrically challenged-motorist Eleanor Holmes Norton.
A HOH tipster watched in horror Wednesday as the D.C. delegate, 77, awkwardly forced her way into a wide-open spot in the carefully controlled corridor of New Jersey Avenue Southeast sandwiched between the Longworth and Cannon House Office buildings.
“If she parks like that she should not be a member of Congress anymore,” one mystified observer – who wisely recorded more than a minute of the automotive travesty – said as the video was being captured. The tipster said Norton rubbed the correctly positioned, red sports utility vehicle to her immediate left with her improperly angled silver sedan.
Per our tipster, Norton performed the sub-par squeeze-in around the same time the rest of her colleagues were crowding into the House chamber to hear the joint address by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
At around the 40-second mark, an oblivious U.S. Capitol Police officer appears to zoom by on a motorcycle, right past the textbook parking offense.
Once the aide seen assisting Norton from outside the slow-moving vehicle finishes waving her into clearly disastrous position, Norton emerges from the car, clicks her remote-locking device (better safe than sorry) and starts to walk away.
Then, all of the sudden, she doubles back.
Has her conscience gotten the best of her? Is she going to slide a quickly composed apology onto the now-stuck truck’s windshield? Or perhaps a business card?
Norton simply retrieves some forgotten item from inside the car and then heads on her merry way.
Our spy estimates the entire head-scratching episode lasted about half an hour, including the painful insertion process and her 20-minute jaunt into Cannon.
Once done with her business, the tipster said Norton backed out of the space and rolled out onto the unsuspecting District streets.
“She hit the car next to her and did not leave a note, though I couldn’t see any damage,” was our spy’s takeaway from the mid-day drama.
Norton’s office disputes that anything untoward transpired.
“After the Congresswoman parked her car, we assessed the cars on either side to see if there was any damage. We could not find any,” a Norton aide assured HOH. “But we left a note with a business card so the congresswoman could be contacted in case we missed any.”
According to Team Norton, the congressional staffer who owns the truck that was boxed in by the septuagenarian pol reached out to her office about the videotaped scrape.
“The Congresswoman heard from the owner of the only car she was close enough to damage. The owner reported no damage,” a Norton spokesman said via email.
Moonbat hall of fame material.
A man who had occupied a cypress tree for 11 days to block construction of a premier golf course in New Orleans’ large public park has fallen from the tree and injured himself.
The man, identified as Jonathan Boover, who goes by Lloyd, fell out of the tree in City Park on Tuesday morning.
Christopher Lane of the City Park for Everyone Coalition says Boover apparently had not eaten in a day and was disoriented from lack of sleep.
Lane says Boover believed he may have broken an ankle and his nose in the fall.
Sheriff’s deputies had been monitoring Boover’s protest and kept a spotlight trained on him at night.
He was expected to be charged with trespassing.
Boover said he was happy to ‘spend a few days in jail’ if it meant more people would hear about the $24.5 million golf course being built along park along Harrison Avenue.
About 100 trees will be chopped down for the course.