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Phoenix VA Investigation Continues After Suspension Of Administrators

The investigation into the Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical center continued Friday. The announcement that three officials have been placed on administrative leave is the latest development emerging from the probe.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the suspension of medical system director Sharon Helman, and two others late Thursday afternoon.

In a written statement Helman said she respects the Secretary’s decision and is “fully supportive of any decision that ensures we have a thorough review.”

Retired Phoenix VA physician Dr. Sam Foote was one of the first whistleblowers to call attention to the allegations of fraudulent wait time records.

"I had patients saying I’ve been waiting three, six, nine months for an appointment at a time when the administration was bragging about how they got the waiting times down, and that half the people got seen in two weeks," he said. "And the numbers just didn’t add up."

Foote said he’s happy the Inspector General’s office is investigating, adding that there should be plenty of evidence to support the allegations.

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have requested regular updates from the VA’s Inspector General. McCain said he supports Shinseki’s decision.

"I do however want to say, they like all other citizens, have the right of innocence until proven guilty. But these allegations are of the utmost seriousness, and this action I think is called for," said McCain.

Officials with the Phoenix VA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.