Iowa Republican and longtime government watchdog Sen. Charles Grassley on Thursday demanded a review of $80 million spent on travel last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs after a senior official billed the government nearly $131,000 for his weekly commute to Washington, D.C.
Grassley's request came after iWatch News reported VA Inspector General George Opfer discovered a senior official in the Veterans Health Administration spent the money flying to work each week. The employee, whose name has not been released, was one of the top five purchasers of airline tickets in the entire department from January 2010 to August 2010. The only employees who travelled more frequently by air were health care providers working with the VA in the Pacific Islands.
In a letter to Opfer, Grassley called the case "disturbing" and asked the inspector general to launch a department-wide review of 2010 spending on travel and report back with "a list of the top 25 VA agency travelers." He also asked for a review of the VA's use of locality pay, which adjusts federal employees' pay based on geographic location.
"It is important for the Inspectors General community to investigate and expose abuse of travel funds by agency employees," Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in the letter.
The VA press office did not respond to iWatch News' request for comment on Thursday.
The high-flying VA official could have been forced to move to D.C. after being given a 60-day notice, according to the inspector general's June report. A VA spokeswoman contacted for the initial iWatch News story said she could not comment on whether the government was still paying for his airfare and hotel commuting expenses.