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.

Related story:

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.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 Darrell mich

Abuse in general is not often found generally not dealt with if it can be Rationalized. Education is a highly recommended Commodity for government agencies but is sadly not a major part of the higher ring grabbed when filling openings in areas that are better suited for compartmentalized insiders . Who is watching the watchers

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 Easy Rider NOVA

Not abuse at all. There are Fed programs for education. All you need do is apply. Some have a payback requirement, others do not. Far too many Feds don't want formal education like Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate. They would rather waste educational funds going to a "bootcamp" that merely teaches them the answers to a test, not the underlying theory. They ALWAYS want the easy way.

Fri, May 11, 2012

This is clearly a violation of Federal training regulations and grossly unfair to other employees. The same is happing in my agency. One of the "chosen ones" has had his Masters degree and now his Doctoral degree paid for buy my agency. The large expence for his special treatment takes up the majority of my agency's location training budget for the last several years. Basically IT"S UNFAIR,ILLEGAL and JUST WRONG!!

Tue, Mar 27, 2012

Give me a break!!! This guy has his supervisors approve the training, and then an administration change happens and they can't get their own General Counsel to agree with a reimbursement order. So then the OIG tries to have taxes paid by this GS employee which was approved by SES supervisors? Was any other employees offer the same training opportunity? Your reporting is pretty lazy.

Tue, Jan 24, 2012

Its abuse! 75,000 is a lot of training for one person. I am having a hard time getting MY supervisor to let me travel 300 miles for training, and its FREE!

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