AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

VA executive who exchanged offensive messages earns $100K+

The VA executive who exchanged unprofessional and offensive instant messages with another VA employee earned $96,586 last year, according to the latest federal salary data available.

But that was before Angel Lawrence was elevated last fall to the top job at the national Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta. Past directors of the center were at a GS-15 pay grade that pays between $125,132 to $161,900, according the 2017 federal scale for Atlanta.

Lawrence declined comment about the instant messages she exchanged with VA program analyst Nathan Jaco that came to light on Monday. Jaco joked about sending people in "the parasitic class" to "the ovens" and Lawrence seemed to laugh along with these and other offensive remarks.

Jaco, a program analyst who earned $88,305 in 2016, told the AJC he was referring to sending hippies to the ovens and his comments were not meant to be offensive or hateful. He said they were private conversations and the tone is the way military people talk with one another to help bond. The VA is reviewing the matter to determine if it will discipline the pair.

The episode is the latest black eye on the enrollment center in Atlanta that has been beset by a series of management failures and system breakdowns that impact veterans nationwide trying to enroll in the VA's health care system. In April, the AJC reported about a botched plan to fix a health care enrollment backlog and last week reported on an inspector general's draft report that found the agency's health enrollment system in disarray.

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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.