Wait Lists and Veteran Deaths Result in $10 mil in Bonuses At Phoenix VA

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Sharon Helman, whose salary as director of the Phoenix VA was $169,879, received a $9,345 bonus in fiscal 2013. An $8. She was put on administrative leave last month.

After requesting bonus records 10 times under the federal Freedom of Information Act since March, The Arizona Republic finally got the skinny from the Department of Veteran Affairs and it isn’t pretty:

The Phoenix VA paid out $10 million in bonuses over the past three years, while they manipulated wait-time records which killed veterans waiting for care.

No pun intended, believe me – this is sick.

Bonus payouts increased significantly under Sharon Helman, who became director of the Phoenix VA in February 2012. She was placed on administrative leave last month with two other top staff members amid accusations of mismanagement stemming from the bonus scandal. Helman could not be reached, but previously has said she was unaware of fraudulent record-keeping or patient deaths caused by delays.


Records show 4,188 bonuses were paid over the past three fiscal years to more than 2,150 employees, including doctors, nurses, administrators, secretaries and cleaners. Nearly 650 VA employees received a bonus in each of the three years. The VA has about 2,500 employees.

The bonus totals increased from $2.5 million in 2011, to $3.5 million in 2012 and $3.9 million in 2013. The figures obtained by The Republic are much larger than figures recently posted online by two watchdog groups.


“The VA employee recognition and awards program provides an entire range of rewards to recognize employees who make contributions that support goals and objectives across the facility,” said Jean Schaefer, a Phoenix VA spokeswoman.

Roughly half of the Phoenix bonus payments went to doctors as part of a “physician performance pay” program.


Bonus records for fiscal years ended Sept. 30, 2011, 2012 and 2013 show:

• Helman, whose salary was $169,879, received a $9,345 bonus in fiscal 2013, and about $1,000 to cover taxes she paid on her Phoenix relocation allowance. An $8,495 bonus awarded in February was rescinded.

• Helman’s secretary, Karen Craig, received a $5,500 bonus last year on top of her $55,513 salary. It was the fourth-largest staff bonus for someone who was not a doctor. Craig received bonuses of $1,202 and $800 the prior two fiscal years.Her recent bonus was $2,650 more than any other secretary’s during any of the past three years. Craig could not be reached.

• Associate Director Lance Robinson and Health Administration Services Director Brad Curry, who, with Helman, were put on leave May 1 after misconduct at the VA surfaced, both received $3,000 bonuses in fiscal 2013.

• Some job categories were rewarded with large bonuses, including dieticians and nutritionists. Five received bonuses in excess of $10,000 in 2012 and 2013. The bonuses ranged from 9 to 30 percent of the dieticians’ other pay for the year.

• Bonuses were given out to lower-paid employees as well. Fifteen custodians received bonuses of more than 6 percent of their pay in one of the past three years, as did more than a dozen clerks and assistants and 10 employees who work in medical support assistance.


Anyone who doesn’t think this is the future of ObamaCare is really naive. The entire healthcare system, while not exactly like the VA, is still going to be riddled with government corruption, cover-up and melt-down. And don’t forget: Death.

Good luck everybody – they have your medical records now. They have all your private phone calls, texts and emails, too – all stored and ready to roll out when needed. Think I’m paranoid? Five years ago I would have though so too.

Sleep tight.


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