Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, speaks at a news conference at the veterans Affairs Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. McDonald discussed his visits with VA facilities across the country and outline his priorities. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
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Arizona's two senators and nine members of the House are calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to find a permanent director of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs office, as the VA is still paying its director who has been accused of fraud and mismanagement, and has relied on interim directors in the meantime.
Sharon Helman was put on leave in the wake of the VA health care scandal, in which VA officials manipulated data to make it appear that veterans were not waiting very long before seeing doctors, and then tried to cover up that scandal.
Arizona's congressional delegation is asking VA Secretary Robert McDonald to find a permanent replacement to lead the Phoenix VA. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
But Helman has yet to be fired or disciplined, aside from being placed on paid administrative leave. That status allows her to keep collecting her $170,000 salary, and the VA has not indicated it is close to a decision to fire her.
With Helman not at work, the VA has relied on two interim directors, but they can only stay in place for 120 days. Arizona's delegation said this status is unacceptable given the need for the Phoenix VA system to have a strong leader on board who can start correcting the agency's past mistakes.
"Surely, we can agree that the circumstances surrounding the recent issues at VA facilities around the country are anything but typical and that the Phoenix VA hospital would benefit from increasing stability among leadership," they wrote. "Toward that goal, we request that you take the necessary steps to ensure that a permanent replacement at the Phoenix facility is expediently appointed."
Helman's ability to keep collecting a paycheck has angered members of Congress and veterans. In August, Concerned Veterans for America launched a web page showing how long Helman has been able to keep collecting her salary.
As of Friday, she has been on what that group calls a "paid vacation" for 134 days.
Read the letter from Arizona's congressional delegation here:
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