Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman Fired

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:27am
Updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 4:34pm
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ News)
Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix.

Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman was fired Monday. The Phoenix VA was at the center of a national scandal about delays in patient care.

Accusations about secret waiting lists surfaced in April from doctors at the Phoenix VA. After an investigation, a report by the Inspector General’s Office held Director Sharon Helman responsible for falsifying records and covering up the delays in patient care. Helman has been on paid leave since May. Since on leave, there have been three interim directors appointed to fill in.

Senator John McCain said it was about time.

“Well, I just think it was too long. It was very clear that when brave veterans die that it’s inexcusable and the people who are in charge should have had immediate repercussions," McCain said. "And there are others who are responsible at the Phoenix VA and around the country.”

At least 40 patients died while awaiting care in Phoenix, but the Inspector General’s report couldn’t “conclusively assert” that extended wait times caused the deaths. The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will appoint a new director as soon as possible. 

Congresswoman Kirsten Sinema said Helman shouldn’t get to keep the money she got for decreasing wait times. 

“My opinion is that she shouldn’t get to keep the $90,000 she earned on administrative leave, she shouldn’t get to keep the bonuses and she certainly shouldn’t be able to retire with federal benefits," Sinema said.

Sinema said now that Helman has been fired, the VA can start a search for a new permanent director. Glen Grippen is the current and third interim director to come to Phoenix, since May. 

Updated Nov. 25, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.

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