Sharon Helman, the former Director of the Phoenix VA, is the poster girl for the need for VA Accountability. Accusations of mismanagement including instances of manipulating patient data have followed at nearly every VA hospital she has run. CNN has even reported that her actions while running the Phoenix VA could have led to the death of up to 40 veterans either waiting for or receiving care there.
If she worked at a private sector hospital, she would likely be in jail. But since she’s a government employee, she gets a paid vacation.
It’s maddening, but true. Despite the fact that an Inspector General report and the VA’s own internal audit both found that she pressured employees to falsify wait time data and punished Phoenix VA whistleblowers on numerous occasions, Sharon Helman is STILL on the VA’s payroll — on PAID “administrative leave.” Even worse, the VA has been less than transparent about when – or even if – she will be disciplined at all. Sadly, the same is true for several other VA administrators that have been found to have engaged in misconduct.
Stories like these are the reason why Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) pushed so hard for the passage of the VA Management and Accountability Act. The newly enacted law gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs greater authority to fire poorly performing or downright corrupt managers like Sharon Helman and others more quickly. But shockingly, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, has yet to use this power and has failed to send a message that days of dodging punishment at the VA are over.
CVA will continue to keep the pressure on Secretary McDonald and President Obama to ensure that senior managers like Sharon Helman are held accountable when they engage in wrongdoing.
The clock is ticking… How many more days of paid vacation will Sharon Helman get?
Will you do your part to help us stop the clock?