VA loses more brass from conference spending scandal

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A senior Veterans Affairs Deparment official has resigned and other been reassigned as fallout from the VA's 2011 conference spending scandal continues.

Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University, has resigned because of her position of oversight for conference costs and training, the agency confirmed. 

John Sepúlveda, the assistant secretary for human resources and administration already resigned on Sept. 30 because of his role in two 2011 conferences that resulted in at least $762,000 in questionable costs.

Muellerweiss was supposed to handle conference training and monitoring for Sepúlveda, but did not participate in conference planning, failed to monitor conference activities and remained uninvolved with events and spending taking place under her watch, said the VA office of inspector general at the time of Sepúlveda's resignation.

The agency confirmed that Tonya Deanes, who also had responsibility for the conferences, is being relocated to the human resources department in the Veterans Health Administration.

With the resignations of Sepúlveda and Muellerweiss, as well as the relocation of Deanes, the agency has taken action against the three individuals named in the report (.pdf) from its OIG.

At the time, auditors said that VA officials also gave themselves bonuses of $43,018, questionable "in light of the mismanagement and lack of professional care exercised in controlling and tracking conference-related costs."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee , said the resignations and reshuffling are not enough to rebuild agency trust because the VA officials have not accepted responsibility for the abuse.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told the Washington Examiner that the committee will thoroughly investigate the VA for waste and abuse, and called for the resignation of VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich, who Miller says approved the conference budget and spending.

For more:
- see Issa's statement
- read the Washington Examiner story
- download the 2012 OIG report on conference spending (.pdf)

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