The House voted Wednesday to stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying out huge subsidies to top officials when they relocate to start a new job at the agency.
The VA's Appraised Value Offer program was exposed when the VA spent more than $300,000 to help Diana Rubens move to Philadelphia to run the VA in that city.
The AVO program apparently allowed Rubens to sell her Virginia home for $80,000 more than it sold for just months later, and paid Rubens about $83,000 directly for various moving-related costs. It also paid $211,000 to a property manager, a move that House aides believe allowed that manager to buy the home from Rubens at an inflated price.
But the House voted Wednesday night to end the VA's use of the program altogether. Members are considering legislation to fund the VA in fiscal year 2016, and took up an amendment from Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) to terminate the AVO program.
It passed unanimously in a voice vote, reflecting the ongoing frustration that Congress has with a VA that is still struggling to ensure veterans get timely access to health care.
"Under the Appraised Value Offer program, the VA spent nearly $300,000 in taxpayer money to move a VA employee 140 miles - from Washington DC to Philadelphia," Babin said. "That's $300,000 that could have been used to care for numerous deserving veterans who have served this nation in uniform, but instead was wasted on relocating a single VA government bureaucrat."
"Unfortunately, this is just another disturbing example of the lack of transparency and accountability at the VA," he added. "The folks at the VA are already under scrutiny for their shocking failure to properly care for veterans – and to now spend $300,000 to move one employee – it is absolutely abusive."
The House is expected to finish work on the VA spending bill today, pass it, and send it along to the Senate.
The Obama administration has already threatened to veto the bill. One reason for the veto threat is that the bill doesn't spend as much as the White House wants, even though it does spent more than the current fiscal year.
Another reason, however, is that the bill would cut back on VA bonus awards, something that the White House opposes.