A recently resigned Veterans Affairs Department executive violated ethics rules in dealings with her husband’s employer, according to an internal investigation that corroborated a whistleblower’s allegations to Congress.
The VA inspector general, acting on a complaint from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, concluded this week that Charmain Bogue, the ex-executive director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service, created the appearance of a conflict of interest, failed to follow ethics guidance she was given and refused to fully cooperate in the investigation.
“Bogue participated in matters involving her spouse’s employer without considering an apparent conflict of interest and acted contrary to ethics guidance she received,” the report released Thursday concluded.
She also “violated ethics rules and her duty to cooperate fully with the OIG,” the report added. Investigators recommended no further action because Bogue resigned in January.
A national whistleblower group hailed the findings, saying the acknowledgment of impropriety was long overdue.
“These conflicts were an open secret in the VA for years. Supervisors knew. The VA-OIG knew. But, the whistleblowers were ignored until Senator Chuck Grassley started asking questions,” said Jason Foster, a former Grassley investigator who now serves as the president of the watchdog Empower Oversight.
“Veterans deserve better than bureaucrats who abuse public service to feather their own nests. It should not take prodding from a sitting U.S. Senator to kick the watchdog into gear, but that is exactly what happened here. Whistleblower warnings should have led to action sooner,” he added.
In Empower Oversight’s press release, the watchdog noted that it had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the VA and VA-OIG in August regarding the agency’s lack of response to Grassley’s referral.
In November, the watchdog released a FOIA copy of the VA’s draft reply to Grassley, which was withheld from the Senate. The FOIA copy had redacted the answers to Grassley and Empower Oversight has appealed those redactions.
Bogue did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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