ac griffin va hospital va chief responds to accusations_00030709.jpg
Director of Phoenix VA placed on leave
07:07 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Sharon Helman was charge of the Phoenix VA but was formally fired Monday

That particular VA hospital had 3,500 veterans waiting for appointments on secret lists

CNN  — 

The embattled head of the Phoenix VA was formally fired Monday.

Sharon Helman was in charge of the Phoenix VA Health Care System and the facility at the center of the VA scandal; she was put on administrative leave following a CNN interview in April, in which she denied the existence of a secret list used to cover up delays in patient care.

When asked by CNN’s Drew Griffin if the Phoenix VA intentionally covered up long wait times, Helman responded, “It’s never come from me.”

Related: Veterans languish and die on VA hospital’s secret wait list

The VA’s Office of Inspector General confirmed in August 3,500 veterans had been waiting for appointments on secret lists at the Phoenix VA.

At a congressional hearing in September, the VA inspector general Richard Griffin said long wait times at the Phoenix VA, some of which were hidden from VA headquarters, contributed to patient deaths.

With the announcement of Helman’s termination, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement “lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving Veterans, and VA will not tolerate it.”

Since President Barack Obama in August signed into law an act making it easier for the VA to fire top officials, three senior officials from Pittsburgh, central Alabama and Phoenix have now been fired.

Timeline: The VA’s troubled history

Two other officials were “proposed” for termination but then retired with their pensions intact.

The VA says it has “proposed disciplinary action” against 45 employees nationwide for issues related to data manipulation or patient care.

Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Jeff Miller previously criticized the VA for stalling the firing of Sharon Helman, noting that she continued to be paid after she was placed on leave in May.

On Monday, Miller called on the VA to fire additional officials.

“Sharon Helman’s removal is a positive step, but there are still many more VA scandal figures who also must be purged from the department’s payroll in order for veterans and families to receive the closure they deserve,” Miller said.

Scott Bronstein contributed to this report.