Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a statement
that Director Sharon Helman was put on administrative leave "until
further notice" pending a "thorough" review by the agency's
inspector general's office.
Also put on leave were associate director Lance Robinson and a third
individual whose name and position were not disclosed, the
Department of Veterans Affairs said.
"It is important to allow an independent, objective review to
proceed," Shinseki said. "These allegations, if true, are absolutely
unacceptable and if the inspector general's investigation
substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be
Helman and Robinson could not be reached for comment.
Allegations into problems at the busy central Phoenix hospital have
surfaced in recent weeks, with claims that as many as 40 veterans
may have died while waiting for medical appointments at the
The Arizona Republic, which has investigated complaints of delayed
care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, reported earlier this
month that U.S. Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the House
Committee on Veterans Affairs, had disclosed at a committee meeting
that up to 40 veterans might have died due to delayed care at the
Miller has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue a
preservation order to safeguard all documents at the Phoenix
facility to allow his committee and the VA inspector general to
fully investigate the matter.
[to top of second column]
Whistleblowers, including retired physician Sam Foote, also allege
there was a secret list kept to mask the delayed care.
"The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA's own
internal rules," Foote told CNN this week. "They developed the
secret waiting list."
Shinseki said he takes the allegations very seriously. He gave no
timetable for when the investigation would be completed.
Three Arizona congressmen this week called for Helman and top
hospital administrators to resign in the face of the allegations.
The state's two U.S. senators also have been vocal about potential
problems at the facility.
Arizona Senator John McCain, a military veteran and the state's
senior senator, said in a message on Twitter that the hospital's
move was "appropriate."
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Richard Chang and Ken
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