WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing for answers after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has stonewalled on questions related to allegations of ethics and conflicts of interest violations at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
 
“Certainly the Congress has a sufficient interest in whether government employees are potentially monetizing non-public information for their own financial benefit or that of their cronies,” Grassley wrote. “It is deeply troubling that VA is the sole agency to not respond to my inquiry, especially given the seriousness of the allegations.”
 
After Grassley sought watchdog reviews of alleged ethics violations, leaking of market-sensitive information and whistleblower reprisal in April, the VA Office of Inspector General confirmed an administrative investigation into the allegations that VBA official Charmain Bogue violated laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest in her dealings with her husband’s companies. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also responded to Grassley’s earlier inquiry.
 
Full text of Grassley’s letter follows. The letter and its attachments can be found HERE.
 
July 20, 2021
 
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
Denis McDonough
Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
 
Dear Secretary McDonough:
 
I write to you again today to express my disappointment in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) failure to timely respond to my April 2, 2021 letter, which raised several concerns about ongoing issues at your department. As you’ll recall, these issues include, but are not limited to, potential whistleblower reprisal, conflicts of interest among senior-level employees, and potential leaking of market-sensitive information that may have affected retail investors and financial markets.[1]
 
Upon receiving the very same documents that I provided to your office, the VA Inspector General (VA OIG) has initiated an investigation into whether the VA Executive Director of the Veterans Benefits Administrations Education Service, Charmain Bogue, violated conflicts of ethics law and regulation by failing to conflict herself off of dealings with her husband’s companies.[2] Further, VA OIG is investigating whether any potential legal opinion existed at VA that recommended her recusal from doing business with her husband’s companies. In my April 2, 2021 letter, I requested any legal opinions, should any exist, surrounding Mrs. Bogue’s involvement with her spouses businesses.[3] Unfortunately your office has not provided the requested records or answered whether Mrs. Bogue engaged in these alleged activities.
 
The Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) also responded to my inquiry. In a July 1, 2021 letter to my office, the SEC stated that it is carefully considering the information provided to their office to ensure that there is compliance with both statute and regulation.[4] As you’ll recall, my April 2, 2021 letter sought information as to what VA does to protect market-sensitive information from improper disclosure by VA personnel. Your office has yet to respond as to whether your employees adequately adhere to applicable law and regulation. Certainly the Congress has a sufficient interest in whether government employees are potentially monetizing non-public information for their own financial benefit or that of their cronies.
 
It is deeply troubling that VA is the sole agency to not respond to my inquiry, especially given the seriousness of the allegations. My staff has attempted, on several occasions, to work with your office to find a mutually agreeable solution– including accepting answers to my questions on a rolling basis – to no avail.[5]
 
To that end, I request that you respond to my initial inquiry, and answer the additional follow-up questions based on information received from other entities, no later than July 30, 2021.
 
1.      Has VA sought guidance from the Office of Government Ethics with respect to educating the VA workforce on the importance of safeguarding potentially market-sensitive information? If not, why not?
 
2.      Does VA have a policy regarding the necessity for employee’s to protect potentially market-sensitive, nonpublic information from being released? If so, please provide this policy. If not, why not?
 
I trust that VA is not seeking to obstruct a congressional investigation in any way by intentionally being unresponsive to my investigation. Contact my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225 should you have any questions. Thank you for your attention to this important mater.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
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[1] See Letter from Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, S. Comm. on the Judiciary, to Mr. Denis McDonough, Sec’y U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs (Apr. 2, 2021), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_to_dept.ofveteransaffairsvbaethicsmarketinfoleaks.pdf.
[2] Attached as Exhibit A.
[3] See Letter from Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, S. Comm. on the Judiciary, to Mr. Denis McDonough, Sec’y U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs (Apr. 2, 2021), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_to_dept.ofveteransaffairsvbaethicsmarketinfoleaks.pdf.
[4] Attached as Exhibit B.
[5] Email communications on file with Committee.