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Former Phoenix VA director pleads guilty to failure to disclose financial incentives

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — The former director of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center plead guilty to making a false financial disclosure to the federal government on Tuesday, according to a recent press release.

Sharon Helman was director of Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix from February 2012 to December 2014. During that time, she was required by federal law to compete and file financial disclosure reports each year, including disclosing the gifts she had received.

According to the release, Helman admitted in March 2014 she falsely reported that she received no gifts in 2013. However, she had received more than $19,000 worth of gifts, including a car, a $5,000 check, concert tickets and two round-trip airplane tickets.

Additionally, Helman failed to report four gifts — totaling more than $2,000 — on her 2012 report and did not file a 2014 report, even though she received six gifts totaling more than $27,000.

All of the gifts, according to the release, were from a “former high-level” Veterans Affairs employee who served as Helman’s supervisor from 2005 to 2009.

U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo said in a release that they do not intend to pursue any additional charges.

In a statement, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has been a vocal opponent of Phoenix VA officials for their treatment of veterans, related the department’s inability to convict the director and the deaths of veterans while waiting for health care.

“This failure further underscores the urgent need to eliminate the endless bureaucratic protections that have thwarted any attempt to hold corrupt executives responsible for their role in the scandal of denied and delayed care at the Phoenix VA and hospitals around the nation,” the statement read.

Helman will be sentenced on April 25. Even though the charge against her holds a typical conviction of five years in prison, her plea agreement will allow for probation.

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