Phoenix VA Director, Two Others Placed on Leave

Categories: News
helman-phoenix-va.jpg
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman (left) with a VA employee.


Phoenix VA Health Care System director Sharon Helman and two other VA employees have been placed on leave while the investigation continues into whether 40 veterans died on a "secret waiting list."

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki released a statement indicating that Helman, Phoenix VA associate director Lance Robinson, and a third, unnamed employee would be placed on leave "until further notice."

See also:
-VA Official: We Found "No Evidence" of a Secret Waiting List at Phoenix VA Hospital
-Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on Phoenix VA Allegations

Shineski's statement says they're being placed on leave "[b]ased on the request of the independent VA Office of Inspector General, in view of the gravity of the allegations and in the interest of the Inspector General's ability to conduct a thorough and timely review of the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS) . . . "

Recall that just earlier this week, the national head of the Veterans Health Administration told a Senate committee that the department's own review of allegations surrounding the Phoenix VA system has revealed "no evidence" of a secret waiting list, let alone deaths resulting from that waiting list. However, only the inspector general's investigation will lead to what's considered to be the authoritative report on the issue.

The allegations, made by a retired Phoenix VA doctor, are that the waiting lists were manipulated by VA employees to make them look acceptable to those providing oversight from Washington, but in reality, there was a second waiting list which was so long these veterans supposedly died waiting.

Other employees have been complaining about the apparent problem with the waiting list, but the main source of the claim that 40 veterans died because of it is Dr. Sam Foote, the whistle-blower who sparked this investigation.

Helman has since done just a few media interviews, but has insisted that VA leadership was completely surprised to hear the allegations.

Meanwhile, people like President Obama and Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs chairman Bernie Sanders have said they're waiting for the inspector general's report to proceed with any action on these allegations. In Sanders' case, his committee will be holding a hearing once the inspector general's report is complete.

"We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed," Secretary Shinseki's statement says. "These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General's investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA health care. I appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our employees and of the community stakeholders we work with every day in our service to Veterans."

The most recent allegations involving the Phoenix VA were published last night by the Arizona Republic. That story details a second whistle-blower who claims someone at the VA was destroying evidence of the manipulated wait times just earlier this week.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.



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13 comments
bobby5527
bobby5527

Speaking from personal experience regarding the Phoenix V.A. I only have praise for the care provided myself and other veterans dealing with spinal cord injury. And yes, it's not surprising appointment times can be lengthy you'd be amazed how much the veteran population grows during snowbird season. And you can't push the patient ahead of you because emergencies happen. We've cancelled scheduled appointments before due to difficulties diagnosing patients and thoroughly swamped by increased patient loads. Having been a patient at this installation and the Nursing Home (not the Veteran's Home) on and off the past 36 years and having seen staff come and go the system and personnel have only improved in my estimation. As for the Tucson V.A. been there. I'll stick with Phoenix.

Youseff
Youseff

Looks like the Death Panels are here and starting at the VA Hospital.  This is a multi million dollar agency and where is all the money going to treat the vets?

DN Heath
DN Heath

the Phoenix VA is probably the worst in the country. I know of many in the Phoenix-area that end up just driving down to Tucson.

Angie Rivera
Angie Rivera

Wow. I thought that Arizona was one of the few states that proviced decent medical care to the veterans, but it seems that they don't, to add up to all the injustices they commit towards Arizonans.

DN Heath
DN Heath

I hope that they investigate Cara Garcia. She was fired from one position for unethical behavior only to be placed in another position within the same VA. She has said as far back as 2012 that she can alter medical records of patients and write thing in there that might jeopardize a veteran's disability rating.

D.j. Michael Gonzales
D.j. Michael Gonzales

I hope they clean house like the firing of several CPS workers who didn't do their job. Start at the top this time!

magicmarker_pr
magicmarker_pr

I also go to the VA, and even though I don't have major issues with them, it still outrages me that veterans are treated so poorly there.

Angie Rivera
Angie Rivera

I know that my Primary Care physician retired recently. They need to investigate the recently retired staff as well.

CaveCreek
CaveCreek

I am a former Vietnam combat medic.  I have known for years that the VA was a deathtrap for Vets.  I would have to be dead broke & homeless before I ever went to a VA hospital.  So, if you have a MAJOR illness & want to die quickly, go to the VA.  They'll make sure you suffer & die before you get the proper treatment.

Finnoah
Finnoah

@Youseff The money is going to the top executives in the way of HUGE bonuses.  

shadeaux
shadeaux

@CaveCreek  

Former Vietnam Dustoff Medic here

I've used the VA for about the last 15 years because I have MS and no insurance Co. would touch me. I consider myself lucky enough to have enough medical and mental health knowledge to know if I'm getting a decent level of care and to speak up if I'm not. Had to switch primary care Drs. a few times until I found a good one.

For those who are totally at the mercy of the VA to properly diagnose, and treat them.

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

CaveCreek
CaveCreek

@shadeaux @CaveCreek  Just wondered if you were with the 1st CAV as a Dustoff Medic.  I was on the ground with them 69-70,  Good luck with keeping the VA's toes to the fire on your MS.  I cannot help but agree with you about the medical insurance industry & how they have figured out how to squeeze the money out of us!!  But that's another whole story!!!

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