The Hammer and Nigel Show
Indiana Veterans Affairs Leader Forced to Resign in Wake of Scandal
The leader of Indiana's veterans affairs agency is resigning after awarding grant money intended for struggling veterans to his own employees.
Gov. Eric Holcomb accepted the resignation of Indiana Department of Veterans' Affairs Director James Brown on Friday morning, according to a media release. Brown, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has led the agency since 2013.
"Sgt. Maj. Brown is a good man with a distinguished service record,” Holcomb said. “I am grateful for his longstanding service to our state and country.”
The shakeup comes one week after an ongoing IndyStar investigation found Brown gave middle-income state employees who were veterans an inside track on emergency assistance grants intended for needy vets.
IndyStar reported last week that at least 11 of the agency's employees — many making $40,000 to $50,000 a year — received a total of roughly $40,000 or more through the Military Family Relief Fund.
Brown defended the grants, arguing that his employees had as much right to the money as any other veteran.
Investigative Reporter for the IndyStar, Tony Cook joined the Hammer and Nigel show Friday afternoon with additional details on the matter.
"Part of the problem is that they're operating this program in an environment with very few firm rules, so the agency has largely relied on the discretion of the Director, James Brown to determine how to run this thing. And while they do publish on their website a limit of $2,500 that veterans can receive, he has made exceptions to that amount specifically for some of his own employees."
"...In terms of the employees at the IDVA, we found that these are pretty squarely middle-income Hoosiers - they are veterans. But the difference is that a lot of these folks who received benefits were earning $40-50K per year and had a pretty decent benefit package as state employees. And the letters that they submitted to demonstrate their financial need really paled in comparison to some of the other stories that we heard from other veterans who are facing homelessness or living in a camper. And when you put those stories next to these state employees, their applications sometimes took weeks or months to process, whereas these state employees were receiving these benefits within a day or less, and they were sometimes in excess of that $2,500 limit. So it would appear that these state employees really had an inside track."
Click the link below to hear Hammer and Nigel's full interivew with Tony Cook: