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Veterans Benefits Information

Chairman Takano Demands Transparency on VA Political Appointee Travel Expenses

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano released the following letter addressed to Secretary Wilkie demanding information on VA travel expenses after reporting indicating that $13,000 was spent on six trips for a “senior advisor” to commute from his home in California to his presumed duty station in the Office of the Secretary in Washington, DC: “[Under federal law], travel expenses of a federal employee are permitted if the employee is traveling on ‘official business away from the employee’s designated post of duty,’” said Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41). “If Mr. Selnick’s post of duty existed within the Veterans Health Administration or Veterans Benefits Administration, and his duties were performed at a facility within California, it remains unclear what those duties were and to which facility or office he was assigned, as his travel vouchers do not indicate a duty station.” The letter continued, “Mr. Selnick’s position and role at the Department remain unclear.  If Mr. Selnick is an advisor in the Office of the Secretary, Mr. Selnick’s duty station should be Washington, D.C., in the same location as the Office of the Secretary, so that precious taxpayer funds are not wasted paying commuting costs for employees.” Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.   February 19, 2019 The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20420 Dear Mr. Secretary: According to a report published in ProPublica, the Department of Veterans Affairs has spent approximately $13,000 since October 2018 on travel expenses for Mr. Darin Selnick, a senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary.  According to this report, Mr. Selnick made 6 trips to Washington, D.C. from his home in California, traveling to Washington, D.C. twice a month to perform work at the VA Central Office. Mr. Selnick’s position and role at the Department remain unclear.  If Mr. Selnick is an advisor in the Office of the Secretary, Mr. Selnick’s duty station should be Washington, D.C., in the same location as the Office of the Secretary, so that precious taxpayer funds are not wasted paying commuting costs for employees. Under 5 U.S.C. §5702, the travel expenses of a federal employee are permitted if the employee is traveling on “official business away from the employee’s designated post of duty.” If Mr. Selnick’s post of duty existed within the Veterans Health Administration or Veterans Benefits Administration, and his duties were performed at a facility within California, it remains unclear what those duties were and to which facility or office he was assigned, as his travel vouchers do not indicate a duty station.  All reports and briefings indicate that Mr. Selnick’s duty station is Washington, D.C. in the Office of the Secretary, as leader of the executive steering committee responsible for implementing the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (Pub. L. No. 115-182). To better ascertain Mr. Selnick’s role and duties at the Department, and the Department’s rationale for paying his travel expenses from California to perform work in Office of the Secretary located in Washington, D.C., I request answers to the following questions and production of the following items: What were Mr. Selnick’s duties from October to December 2018? What was Mr. Selnick’s assigned duty station from October to December 2018? What are Mr. Selnick’s current duties and to which duty station is he currently assigned? Please provide any communications or documents related to approval of Mr. Selnick’s travel by VA ethics officials. What were the reasons for Mr. Selnick’s travel to Washington, D.C. twice a month? Did the Department consider other candidates to lead the executive steering committee if the work was to be performed in the Washington, D.C. metro area? How many other candidates were considered for the position? What skill sets and expertise does Mr. Selnick possess, and are those skills not available in the Washington, D.C. metro area? If Mr. Selnick’s duties and assigned duty station is in the Office of the Secretary, has Mr. Selnick relocated to Washington, D.C.?  If Mr. Selnick’s assigned duty station is or was Washington, D.C., and the Department made improper payments of travel expenses to Mr. Selnick, please provide me a plan to ensure the Department recoups these expenses from Mr. Selnick.  Please provide a response by Friday, March 8, 2019. If you have any questions, please contact Grace Rodden, General Counsel, at (202) 225-9756. Sincerely,                                                ###

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Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans

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On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans”.  The Committees will meet at 2:00 p.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

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VA 2030: A Vision for the Future of VA

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On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives, Full Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold our rescheduled hearing entitled “VA 2030: A Vision for the Future of VA”.  The Committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. in room 1334 of the Longworth House Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

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Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the "Legislative Presentation of The American Legion"

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On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the “Legislative Presentation of The American Legion”.  The Committees will meet at 10:00 a.m. on the ground floor, room 50, (G-50) of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here

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Legion Family members asked to attend Bladensburg press conference

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American Legion Family members are encouraged to peacefully attend a press conference following the Feb. 27 U.S. Supreme Court hearing involving the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial.

The issue in the case — brought forth by the American Humanist Association — is whether the cross-shaped memorial is a religious symbol and should be removed from a public space. The American Legion and Gold Star families created and paid for the 40-foot-high monument in 1925 as a tribute to 49 veterans from Prince George’s County, Md., who died in World War I.

Oral arguments in the case are set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27. Afterward, The American Legion will host a press conference with its attorneys from First Liberty Institute and Jones Day.

American Legion Family members are encouraged to arrive at the Supreme Court around 11 a.m. Look for the podium on the First Street sidewalk with First Liberty’s logo on the front and gather near there. All Legion Family members are encouraged to wear appropriate Legion attire and headgear.

Bob Sussan, chairman of the American Legion Riders, cautions Legion participants to not engage with those supporting the American Humanist Association.

“Although you may wish to express yourself, please do not attempt to debate or engage with the protesters in any fashion,” Sussan said. “It is important that the American Legion Family presents a highly professional and positive image of support. The sole purpose of our presence is, as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion, ‘to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars.’ In a nutshell, take the high road.”

For more information, contact Sussan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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