Benjamin Krause has been following former Phoenix VAHC Director Helman’s firing on his blog. The firing was upheld a few days ago. She improperly accepted lavish gifts from a lobbyist–and her former boss–and failed to report them. There are some whistle-blower hereos in his story and we shall acknowledge and praise them in another post.
According to Judge Mish’s ruling, the VA brought three charges of misconduct against Helman: Charge 1: Lack of oversight. This was not sustained. Helman wins this one.
Charge 2, Specification A. Wrongly put a whisleblower physician on leave (sustained) and Specification B Took gifts from Dennis “Max” Lewis (sustained). Good evidence from the paper/email trail.
Charge 3: Failure to report gifts in A. 2012 B. 2013 Both years sustained: VA wins these easily because she lied on forms.
For an overview, this URL links to three good articles:
To read the 61-page ruling: helman pdf. It’s a slow upload but provides a balanced analysis of the case by Judge Mish. He wrote:
“I conclude [she] has little rehabilitative potential…She has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the course of this appeal and attempted to deflect attention from her own actions by pointing to political considerations and complaining that the agency has been looking into her private life.”
This is also interesting because the lobbyist works for a company that helps clients get billions in VA business (ex. CBOCs).
This ruling does not bode well for the VA’s ability to sustain charges of Lack of Oversight by lousy administers in future attempts to remove the worst offenders at different VISNs since the judge is shifting that argument back to headquarters and elsewhere–and headquarter’s doesn’t want scrutiny applied to them. So this ruling could have a chilling effect. That’s my take on it but you may see it differently. I also don’t think her administrative career is over for good because she won the first charge and a private healthcare company could hire her and look the other way with regard to her morals.
Link to Merit Systems Protection Board website where Judge Mish’s full 61-page ruling can be found (scroll down). Long loading time. http://www.mspb.gov/vases/index.htm
|Sharon Helman v. Department of Veterans Affairs, DE-0707-15-0091-J-1|
She had two lawyers and someone else. The VA had five lawyers.
Ed. note. This is why I held back so long to pass judgement on Ms. Helman. I think the tip of the iceberg is barely in sight. Who, pray tell, is guilty at Phoenix VAMC if the boss is not?