• Lawyer For Association That Fights Against VA Accountability Represents VA Scandal’s Central Figure

    A lawyer belonging to an organization responsible for opposing accountability efforts at the Department of Veterans Affairs is representing former Phoenix VA chief Sharon Helman in her suit against the government.

    According to a report by USA Today, Helman’s lawyer is Debra Roth, who is also employed as general counsel for an organization called the Senior Executive Association. The organization describes itself as a “professional association for career federal executives” and has stood firmly against “at will” employment legislation, which would allow agencies to terminate senior executive service employees without the need to deal with lengthy hurdles. According to a survey conducted by SEA, 92.4 percent of federal employees stated they were against the idea.

    Helman first became involved in the scandal after transferring to Phoenix VA as head of the center, where she received a salary of $169,000 a year in addition to bonuses.

    She was fired on Nov. 24 of last year, after being placed on administrative leave since May 2014, taking a salary of $90,000 dollars during that time period. However, to the disappointment of lawmakers and veterans’ advocates, her firing was not in connection to manipulated waitlists, which have been at the forefront of the Phoenix VA controversy.

    Instead, Chief Administrative Judge Stephen Mish of the Merit Systems Protection Board upheld her firing on Dec. 24 but nabbed her for problems with oversight, retaliation against whistleblowers and accepting gifts. She accepted over $11,000 dollars worth of gifts given by Dennis “Max” Lewis, vice president of the Jefferson Consulting Group. Lewis’ job is to secure government contracts, particularly with the VA, and at the time of the gifts, Lewis wanted to conduct business with a VA outpatient clinic under Helman’s management. (RELATED: Former Phoenix VA Director Is Suing The Government For Her Job Back)

    Yet despite all this, Helman still thinks she deserves her position back. In an unrelated case, Helman is also looking to block the VA’s attempt to recoup a $9,080 bonus.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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