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May 27 2014

Another Veterans Affairs Scandal?

Patrice J. Lee

If someone lied on her job application about receiving a degree, would you get rid of her once you learned the truth? Many companies would, but apparently not the federal government. Instead you get promoted to lead a network of healthcare centers.

The department of Veterans Affairs is currently under fire for serious mishandling of veterans benefits and care. Many are calling for the director to be removed, but Eric Shinseki is not the only official who should be under the microscope.

Sheila Cullen, the director of the VA’s Sierra Pacific Network, reportedly falsely claimed in numerous official documents that she had been awarded a master’s degree from the Bernard M. Baruch College-Mount Sinai School of Medicine that she never earned. Cullen is now in charge of a more than $1 billion network of hospitals and clinics despite the revelations of her lies.

When approached on several different occasions for her transcripts or accurate records she reportedly used the know-nothing defense.

The Washington Times reports:

The director of VA’s Sierra Pacific Networkclip_image002, Sheila M. Cullen falsely claimed in “numerous official documents” that Bernard M. Baruch College-Mount Sinai School of Medicine awarded her a master’s degree she never earned, according to a memo by the VA inspector general’s office.

But four years later, she remains on the job, overseeing six medical centers and dozens of clinics in northern California, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Rim that provide care to hundreds of thousands of veterans.

 Although VA officials were informed about the falsifications in 2009, the question of how they responded remains relevant as lawmakers consider giving the VA more power to fire and demote senior executives.

Officials refused to comment. But in a memo outlining the years of falsifications on applications for promotions and in a government background check, officials recommended an ethics refresher course.

Asked about the recommendation for an ethics “refresher,” Joanne Moffett, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, referred to the final report, saying whether or not Ms. Cullen had an MBA had no effect on her current position.

According to the story, Cullen had been confronted on several occasions and following different leadership positions. If she chose to forgo the opportunity to tell the truth and opted instead for the paycheck and clout, she deserves more than a slap on the wrists.

Being less than candid on a resume is not uncommon. Discrepancies often emerge around education and job history especially dates, but between an online search and a simple phone call most entries on your resume can be confirmed or denied. So why do people take the risk?

There are numerous examples of business executives who lied on their resume, but they customarily got the boot, not a promotion. It’s time to question why Cullen is being permitted to remain in her role.

According to Cullen, she completed two years of courses toward her degree, but she didn’t complete her thesis, therefore she didn’t graduate. The greater issue is that she appears from the story to have kept up the ruse and used the claim of an advanced degree to secure new positions. Such behavior would demonstrate a serious lack of judgment and trustworthiness. What else might someone who has done this falsify about her past? I’m not just talking about her resume but management of the facilities under her oversight.

Our veterans deserve more than what they have received at the hands of bureaucrats – that includes competent and trustworthy leadership.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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