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VA Ordered To Repay Bonus To Reprehensible Phoenix Director

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VA Ordered To Repay Bonus To Reprehensible Phoenix Director

Excerpted from Stars And Stripes: In another hit to its reform effort, the VA was ordered to repay bonus money this week that it had reclaimed from Sharon Helman, the disgraced former Phoenix health care system director at the center of its nationwide wait-time scandal, according to court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.

An administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs must by Tuesday repay Helman $5,624 garnished from her wages while she was on administrative leave and faced termination.

The VA removed Helman in April and attempted to fire her after audits found secret patient wait lists in Phoenix and at facilities around the country used to hide long delays in care. But an appeals judge found it did not have grounds to fire her for hiding delays, and instead backed her firing for taking gifts including Beyonce tickets and a trip to Disneyland.

The garnishing of Helman’s wages to recoup the bonus pay was “premature” because the VA did not provide her a hearing first as required by federal law, Administrative Judge Alan Caramella wrote in the Feb. 25 decision.[…]

President Barack Obama traveled to the VA in Phoenix on Friday to announce a new advisory panel to lead reform efforts – the president had drawn criticism for not visiting the troubled hospital system last year – and the department is coming up on the one-year anniversary of the wait lists and health care delays being revealed by a whistleblowing doctor.

The VA on Friday declined to comment on the Helman bonus decision but said that it is moving ahead with reform efforts started last summer by Secretary Bob McDonald and is still looking into personnel and conduct at the facilities in Phoenix.

“There is an ongoing investigation by the Office of Accountability Review that is looking into leadership at the medical center,” spokeswoman Walinda West wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “Investigations and additional disciplinary actions at Phoenix remain pending.”

The department said it has proposed disciplinary actions “related to data manipulation or patient care” against over 80 employees throughout its nationwide system of hospitals and clinics. Read the whole thing

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