The Department of Veterans Affairs has fired Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Healthcare System.
The decision "followed an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General in which allegations of lack of oversight and other misconduct were substantiated," the department said in a press release on Monday. "This removal action underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that Veterans have access to quality and timely care."
“Lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving Veterans, and VA will not tolerate it,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, who is recently on the job himself after President Barack Obama ushered out Eric Shineski.
“We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of Veterans first and honor VA’s core values of ‘Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence.’” Some lawmakers had wanted Helman gone for awhile, citing the recently passed law intended to empower the secretary to fire people more easily.
“Firing Helman is the right decision and long overdue," Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said in a statement. "The removal of Helman demonstrates that the VA has listened to our concerns and is serious about holding accountable those who put veterans at risk. Helman has been paid over $90,000 since being placed on administrative leave. This is a completely unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars that should instead go to providing care for veterans."
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also applauded the move.
“It's good to finally see accountability in Phoenix,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff in a statement. But he called Helman's departure "just one step on the long road to restoring trust across the system. We hope to see more people held accountable nationwide and look forward to learning the outcome of multiple ongoing criminal investigations.”
Glenn Grippen has been designated interim Phoenix VA Healthcare System director, according to the department.
Sinema met with Grippen Monday and asked for a plan to fix the system's problems.
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