WASHINGTON -- Three officials of the veterans hospital in Phoenix, including its director, are being placed on leave while officials investigate allegations of corruption and unnecessary deaths there.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said Thursday the move was requested by the inspector general looking into the allegations. Earlier this week, a preliminary review of the office's work said there was no evidence to support the claims of misdeeds.
Disciplined officials were director Sharon Helman and associate Lance Robinson. A third employee was not identified in a statement Shinseki issued:
"We take these allegations very seriously... Providing veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our only mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We care deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve.
"We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed. 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 Phoenix Veterans Health Care Center has been under fire in recent weeks over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that, to hide delays in treatment, the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments.
VA Sec Shinseki puts #Phoenix VA leadership on administrative leave - I think it's the appropriate move, and we must get to the truth— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 1, 2014
The day before the announcement, Helman appeared on CNN, along with her medical chief of staff, Dr. Darren Deering, to defend herself.
For the VA to operate well, we need faith and trust in leadership. VA Secretary Shinseki's announcement is a step in the right direction.— Rep David Schweikert (@RepDavid) May 1, 2014