PHOENIX — It is typically a positive thing to be mentioned by a presumptive presidential candidate, but a Donald Trump speech on the Veterans Administration on Tuesday proved to be the opposite for Phoenix.
The New York billionaire was speaking about his donations to veterans when he mentioned Phoenix’s role in the nationwide VA health care scandal.
“The VA is one of the great catastrophes in this country,” Trump said. “You look at what’s happening in Phoenix and other places in the country, where they are catching people stealing and they don’t even fire them.”
Trump was alluding to the nationwide scandal concerning the VA and incredibly long wait times for veterans. The scandal was first uncovered in Phoenix.
Since then, the former head of the Phoenix VA, Sharon Helman, has pleaded guilty to making false financial disclosures to the federal government about yearly gifts. She was sentenced to two years’ probation last month.
Three other officials — Dr. Darren Deering, the hospital’s chief of staff; Lance Robinson, the hospital’s associate director; and Brad Curry, chief of health administration services — were all formally proposed for removal from the VA in March.
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said he was disappointed that it took so long for the executives to be removed, but said the firings should help VA “move past” the wait-time scandal that has consumed the agency for nearly two years.
The high-profile Phoenix cases “have served as a distraction to the progress being made to improve the care we provide in Phoenix and across the nation,” Gibson said. “[The decision to remove the three executives] marks an important step in moving past the events of the past and refocusing solely on caring for our nation’s veterans.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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