4
| News |

Phoenix VA Director, Two Others Placed on Leave

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

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.

Send feedback and tips to the author.
Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.