VA Official Promoted Psychic Business Run By An Employee’s Spouse, Report Finds
A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs watchdog discovered that an official at the Philadelphia regional office abused her position by bringing subordinates to an employee’s home for psychic readings.
The watchdog substantiated that assistant director Lucy Filipov invited employees over to her house for a social function and even charged them for psychic readings provided by the wife of Gary Hodge, the office’s pension manager. She did not check in with an ethics official to approve the event. Hodge reports directly to Filipov, effectively rendering the situation an abuse of office for private gain.
The office of the inspector general also determined that she misused her title in endorsing the private, psychic enterprise and failed to maintain a proper distance between herself and her subordinates, thereby creating the impression of possible favorable treatment.
“As a senior leader, she is held to a higher standard and should set the tone for her subordinates to follow, and establishing personal relationships with a select group of employees within her chain of authority gives the appearance of preference for those few employees,” the report details.
It all started several years ago. A small number of employees would regularly gather in Hodge’s office on Fridays for lunch. Hodge eventually revealed that his wife was a psychic. Over time, Hodge’s wife accompanied the group at VA holiday events and even performed several readings on a casual basis. She gradually grew closer with Filipov. After suggestions that the group convene for a gathering at the psychic’s house, an employee sent a communication to inquiring about availability and rates.
Once Filipov realized the psychic required six people in order for readings to take place, she tried to rope in more subordinates and friends, batting down any apprehension about psychic readings when raised.
As Filipov wrote in an email to a friend, “This is supposed to be more like Teresa the Long Island Medium, less a psychic and more a talk to dead people kind of thing…”
That friend wanted to make sure Filipov didn’t pass the information on to another mutual friend who recently had a relative pass away. But Filipov noted that the only thing dead people say when conjured up is that they’re okay, anyway, and besides, “it will be a little bit of a girl[‘s] night too” complete with “munchies, wine/beer/vodka.”
Investigators interviewed all the employees involved in the gathering, finding that the psychic charged employees between $15-35 dollars. Most were dissatisfied by the experience and ended up bickering with one another about the order of the readings, since the evening was droning on and participants didn’t want to stay too late.
The report also found that Hodge did not disclose his spouse’s income on VA forms, despite the forms requiring true and complete information. Investigators referred his case to the IRS and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The Department of Justice declined the opportunity for prosecution.
Hodge has a history of similarly questionable behavior. In April, a VA inspector general report found that the Pension Maintenance Center, the branch which Hodge leads, manipulated data on pension wait times.
“He gets paid way too much to not understand that it’s not OK to change dates of claims,” said one of his employees, according to The Washington Examiner. Hodge’s excuse for tampering with data was that he didn’t properly understand VA policy.
Over 31,000 questions from veterans also went unanswered. Just a few hours before the report broke, Hodge received a promotion, a practice often used by the VA to avoid disciplining employees. As a GS-15 federal employee, Hodge earns $147,000 dollars a year.
“This report is yet another example of Philadelphia VA Regional Office officials exhibiting horrible judgment,” Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“In a large organization such as VA, you can’t always prevent bad behavior before it happens. What you can do, however, is ensure wrongdoers who are caught red-handed are seriously and appropriately punished. So far, VA has been unwilling to take this commonsense step in one case after another, creating the impression that the department is more interested in defending the dysfunctional civil-service status quo than actually reforming itself.”
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