VA staffer got $75K education courtesy of taxpayers
IG says former VA high-level officials acted improperly
Editor's note: This story was modified after its initial publication to clarify information.
Former Veterans Affairs Department senior officials improperly authorized $75,000 to pay for a master’s degree in business for a high-level assistant at the agency, according to a report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
The officials who approved paying for John English to earn the degree at George Washington University did so without proper justification, states the report. The report was issued in October 2010, but only recently came to light on the IG's redesigned website. English, who began the study program in 2007, was former special assistant to former VA Secretary R. James Nicholson and to former Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield.
VA IG finds abuse of authority and ethical breaches
“For tax years 2007 and 2008, Mr. (John) English received about $75,000 in improper academic degree funding in violation of VA policy,” James O’Neill, assistant inspector general for investigations, wrote in the report.
The OIG report is the latest to detail allegations of misconduct and ethical breaches that occurred among high-level VA officials under the previous VA secretary in the George W. Bush administration. In two reports in 2009, the inspector general outlined multiple abuses in hiring, travel and bonuses.
The current inspector general’s report details a number of alleged improper actions from 2005 to 2009 involving English and his supervisors, which included several executives at the VA’s Office of Information and Technology, led by Assistant Secretary Robert Howard and an unnamed Executive Assistant, who has since retired. Howard resigned in January 2009 and was replaced by Roger Baker.
The inspector general recommended that the VA issue forms to English to ensure that the $75,000 is recognized as taxable income, among other measures. Initially the IG had sought to collect the entire amount from English, but relented after the VA Office of General Counsel objected, according to the report.
Baker, responding on behalf of the VA, agreed with the recommendations.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.