Report Summary

Title: Alleged Conflict of Interest by a VA Medical Center Chief of Staff
Report Number: 18-03275-240 Download
Issue Date: 8/20/2020
City/State: Washington, DC
VA Office: Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Report Author: Office of Special Reviews
Report Type: Administrative Investigation
Release Type: Unrestricted

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated allegations that the chief of staff at a VA medical center engaged in a conflict of interest by performing work for a private company that provides education services and misused his official position by recruiting VA physicians to work for that same company in 2017 and 2018. The OIG did not substantiate either alleged violation. The OIG did, however, identify a related misuse of government resources.

After the OIG investigation began, the chief of staff sought advice from the VA Office of General Counsel regarding whether the work for the company presented a conflict of interest. The chief of staff was advised that there was no conflict of interest. In seeking this advice, the chief of staff disclosed that he had previously asked two VA physicians to do work for the company. The OGC ethics team advised that the VA physicians could continue working for the company; however, the chief of staff should not participate in any employment arrangements between the VA physicians and the company. The chief of staff confirmed that he would follow the advice.

The OIG identified email threads exchanged between the chief of staff and the VA physicians in support of the outside business activities associated with the education company. When presented with these emails, the chief of staff apologized and expressed surprise. The two VA physicians indicated they believed (incorrectly) that the use of VA resources to conduct activities related to the company was permissible if it was done outside working hours.

The OIG makes no recommendations. However, nothing in this report shall prevent the medical center director from taking appropriate administrative action with respect to the improper use of VA email resources by the chief of staff and the physicians.