21 July 2014

New VA Scandal Revealed ... Veterans Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Critcized

from Steve Straehley, AllGov.com
Timing is everything. Steve Muro, the VA’s Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, retired June 20 after more than 35 years with the agency. A month later, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Inspector General issued a report (pdf) criticizing Muro for improper personnel practices.
The report charged that Muro created a job for a friend in violation of civil service regulations; that he had an improper relationship with a contractor for the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), which he managed; and that he improperly gave that contractor business for educational services that were already available through VA channels.
Muro’s friend, whose name is redacted in the report, originally planned to retire in 2003. Muro gave the friend retention incentives and other raises over several years to dissuade him from retiring. Eventually, Muro created a job at a higher civil service rank and ensured it would go to his friend, thus enhancing the friend’s pension by $400 a month.
Muro’s relationship with contractor Patricia Noonan was deemed improper by the IG. He continued contacting Noonan after being advised to stop, he used his position improperly in giving her a letter of recommendation and improperly supported her efforts to win VA contracts. The IG report tersely described it as "less than arms-length relationship."
In addition, NCA gave Noonan contracts to provide over $374,000 for services for recently promoted NCA employees or those who were seeking promotions. The services involved professional coaching in giving presentations and completing individual development plans. Noonan received $250 an hour for providing that coaching, which was already available internally through VA’s Learning University.
This isn’t the first time problems have been found in Muro’s domain, according to The Washington Post. A 2012 VA review discovered that sets of remains were buried in incorrect graves and some grave markers were missing or incorrect. Muro worked to correct those issues by the following year.
Since Muro has retired, the recent IG report recommended no punitive action against him. The report urged that VA to investigate whether corrective action should be taken in regards to two applicants who did not get the job given to Muro’s friend, and to review any contracts still in force with Noonan to ensure there is no conflict of interest or other problems.
note: he may be beyond the VA IG, but certainly not beyond the US Justice Department!!

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