Former Spokane VA director accused of wrongdoing at Phoenix VA

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by WHITNEY WARD & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 7:36 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.--The same director that was accused in April of falsifying records at a Phoenix Veteran Affairs Hospital to cover up veteran’s deaths was once in charge of the Spokane Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

Sharon Helman served as the director at the Spokane VA for just less than two years, from 2008 to 2010.
    
Helman is the director in Phoenix that faced allegations in April of fudging the facts. Officials in Phoenix said she was keeping double books to hide the fact that dozens of veterans died under her watch while waiting for care. They said Helman, among others, kept a secret list of at least 40 veterans who allegedly died while waiting for appointments to see a doctor.

The accusations prompted a federal investigation.

The VA’s Office of Medical Investigations said the number of veteran suicides was miscounted while Helman was the director in Spokane. The agency said between July of 2007 to July of 2008 that at least 22 veterans in the Spokane VA service area committed suicide. The facility had previously reported nine suicides, according to the agency.

A healthcare inspection report from the Department of Veterans Affairs showed substantiated claims that consultations were inappropriately cancelled or discontinued and that patients had unnecessary delays. That report was from two years after Helman left Spokane.

Helman was transferred to a VA facility in Illinois shortly after news of the miscounting in Spokane surfaced. Helman went on to the director’s position in Phoenix from there.

The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs said investigators had evidence that two sets of records were kept by the Arizona facility to conceal the lengthy delays in care. Helman had not officially commented on that accusation on Monday.
   
KREM 2 News checked with the Spokane VA Hospital to find out if there were any lingering concerns of wrongdoing in Spokane. Hospital leaders did not comment to KREM 2 News on the issue.

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