• Members Of Congress Visit Philadelphia VA Only To Find That It’s Worse Than Ever

    Members of Congress visited the Department of Veterans benefits office in Philadelphia following reports from managers that the problems highlighted in a recent watchdog report are well on their way to being fixed.

    Employees disagree, Stars and Stripes reports.

    “I’m wondering what problems have been fixed,” said whistleblower Kristen Ruell, according to Stars and Stripes. “I’m seeing the same things, and it’s worse than ever. Employee morale is at an all-time low.”

    The inspector general report, which reignited controversy at the VA, found that at least 31,000 inquiries from veterans had sat idle and ignored for at least a year. In some cases, employees had to work in a rodent-filled building, and in the most recent example, Assistant Director Lucy Filipov asked subordinates to pay another official’s wife for psychic readings. (RELATED: Report: VA Official Used Her Title To Persuade Employees To Pay For Psychic Readings)

    The bipartisan delegation of lawmakers met with employees to hear complaints about a deep-rooted culture of nepotism and retaliation. But VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey said that the office is making a serious dent in the long backlog of benefit claims. She added that no employees are left working in the building with rodent troubles. Meanwhile, the two managers involved in the psychic readings scandal have been suspended while an investigation is underway.

    Another investigative report is set to be released by the end of June, and Republican Rep. Ryan Costello urged for the three members of the investigative panel to name names, unlike the last report, which did not actually identify specific people responsible for the problems.

    “I don’t see how you can change the culture of an organization if you don’t fire the people responsible,” Costello said, according to Philly.com. “It’s too broad-based not to be able to point the finger at specific people and say, you’re part of the problem and you need to go.”

    Hickey fired back, saying that Congress didn’t grant her request for more employees to cut down the backlog.

    The office manages benefits for 825,000 veterans in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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