MMQB – Helman Scandal Reveals Classic VA Corruption Scheme


Benjamin KrauseOver the holidays, revelations came forward that the Sharon Helman scandal had a lot to do with classic VA corruption and secret gifts like fully paid vacations to Disneyland. For example, Helman was given a week’s vacation to Disneyland, tickets to a Beyonce concert, and a tour around Sedona wine country.

New York Times and The Arizona Republic covered revelations from Helman’s termination appeal decision supporting termination. Chief Administration Judge Stephen Mish said, “I conclude the appellant’s offenses are serious and more likely than not intentional. I conclude [Helman] has little rehabilitative potential.”

What did she do? She got tons of “gifts” from a retired VISN head turned K Street lobbyist – a leading lobbying firm called Jefferson Consulting responsible for helping contractors get contracts and responsible for helping VA pick contractors.

Does this seem like a conflict that will keep power in the hands of a few? How can traditional veteran owned businesses compete with those who can afford friends in high places?

Welcome to this edition of Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) for Veterans. I am your host, Benjamin Krause, creator of the community. This is the number one place of unadulterated veteran centric news, analysis and benefits strategy on the web. MMQB is where I hit on recent news and talk about upcoming news this week.

Here is the MMQB topics:

  • Helman Administrative Judge ruling
  • Gifts Jefferson Consulting Group lobbyist gave Helman
  • About the lobbying firm



Helman recently appealed her termination related to three primary allegations:

  1. Delayed car for veterans and falsified data on appointments
  2. Wrongful retaliation against whistle-blowers
  3. Misconduct in accepting secret gifts

Of these three allegations, Administrative Judge Stephen Mish concluded that Helman’s termination should be upheld only on allegation three – that is was misconduct for Helman to accept secret gifts from a lobbyist.

Judge Mish gave a scathing report of VA for failing to provide evidence of the first two allegations. He indicated the VA OIG report finding Helman culpable for the wait list deaths did not prove she was responsible. Mish also state that Helman’s retaliation against whistle-blowers was not enough to warrant her termination.

However, Judge Mish concluded Helman’s receipt of secret gifts did warrant termination.

“I conclude the appellant’s offenses are serious and more likely than not intentional,” Judge Mish wrote. “I conclude (Helman) has little rehabilitative potential. She has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the course of this appeal and attempted to deflect attention from her own actions by pointing to political considerations and complaining the agency has been looking into her private life.”

Communications about secret gifts were contained within emails and letters with Helman’s former boss turned lobbyist, former VA executive Dennis “Max” Lewis. Lewis was her previous boss and ran VISN 20.



The Arizona Republic provided the following list of communications that outline some of the gifts at the center of the scandal. Judge Mish concluded that Helman failed to disclose at least 9 of 12 alleged gifts that violate ethics laws on the subject:

  • An eight-day vacation in February for Helman’s family of seven at the Disneyland Hotel, including park-hopper tickets, Universal Studios VIP passes and other premium features. The total cost: $11,205. Registration documents provided to The Republic include a booking agent’s notation that Lewis made the Disneyland reservation as “a secret gift to this family and only Sharon knows the source but even she does not know the cost.”
  • A Jeep tour in Sedona in November 2012. Lewis sent a copy of the confirmation to Helman from a personal e-mail address, according to records.
  • Tickets for Helman and her daughters to attend a Beyonce concert Dec. 7, 2013, at the US Airways Center. A Ticketmaster receipt from the $729 purchase was forwarded from Lewis’ personal e-mail account. Six days after the concert, in an open message to Phoenix VA Health Care System employees, Helman gushed about her family’s experience at the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour Starring Beyonce: “What a memory!” she wrote. “They danced, they sang … What inspires you?” The e-mail concluded by noting that a VA forum that week was also inspirational, with displays boasting of dramatically reduced wait times for doctor appointments. “All of our posters validated how we continue to give back to veterans,” Helman wrote. A VA inspector general report later concluded that Phoenix patient-access data was phony and that some veterans had died awaiting care. Investigators concluded that Helman knew the statistics were inaccurate, but reported them as true to earn bonus pay.
  • Flights to Vancouver; Portland, Ore.; Eureka, Calif.; El Paso; and Chicago. One of the airline tickets created confusion in August 2012. According to internal e-mails, executive secretary Karen Craig sent Helman a message saying they had just received a boarding pass for someone named Dennis Lewis. “This is odd,” Craig wrote. “Do you want me to refer this to travel to see what’s going on or who this is?” Helman responded, “Oh. … this is a consultant that I know that I must have got in error. I’ll resend to him.”



According to The Arizona Republic, Jefferson Consulting is a high-powered lobbying and consulting company that lines its halls with former government employees who can help grease the gears for government contracting.

Jefferson consists of lobbyists and consultants representing firms aiming for government contracts, especially with the VA.

The firm is headed by Julie Susman, described in her company’s online biography as a “savvy Washington insider” who previously served as an attorney and deputy staff director for the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Jefferson’s online list of commercial clients includes numerous Humana Inc. and other medical-related companies, some of the VA’s biggest contractors. The corporations received hundreds of millions of dollars through federal contracts. Records show Jefferson spent $290,000 this year on lobbying.

Simultaneously, Jefferson does consulting work for the VA. Federal records show the company has been paid millions in federal tax dollars for advising VA officials how to do acquisitions at the same time Jefferson lobbies the VA on behalf of commercial clients.

Four months ago, Jefferson Consulting was awarded a $4.5 million VA contract to assist with the acquisitions.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics says former federal executives may be restricted in contacting or lobbying current employees regarding official matters.

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Bill Morgan

Typical federal government conduct. Most of them are thieves and no one seems to care.

Robert R. Rowe
People put up with the the V.A. with this [email protected] ! But if a Auto Dealer pulled this ,hammers and guns would be out! Every newspaper in town would be called ! Oh ! we don’t get 5 to 10 yrs. to find out whats wrong with a car ! Humans haven’t changed much in 10 thousand yrs. Cars get new this & that every year ! So think about it next time you take your car in ! WE WANT IT DONE RIGHT ! THE FIRST TIME !! Tired & Retired Mech.

Like they say, this is a systemic problem at the VA and just the tip of the iceberg if you ask me. Corrupt government officials getting loads of payouts and other bennies while veterans are dying. But let’s don’t forget how they keep calling all of us sick, old, and disabled vets a drain on the system!

And we are surprised how? We all know this is happening and like some of you have said, the whole system is corrupt and nothing will be done. When the “waitlist scandal” first started, I commented that as soon as something else came up that took the attention away from us vets, then things would go back to what the VA considers “normal”. They go back to their ways of doing things and we suffer. They put on their “show” during their TV time to make themselves look good because they knew as long as they could stand that storm… Read more »
Dan F
Dan F

This sickens me. Retaliation against a whistle blower is not enough to get her fired? It is a violation of US Code. She should be investigated by the IRS to see if these items were reported as income. Will that happen? No. This lobbying group should be investigated for criminal charges. What will be done? Nothing! I used to think one person could make a difference – in the case of the VA 21,000,000 veterans can’t make a difference.

What this tells me is that VA Management has just received the green light to retaliate against whistle blowers and there is no punishment. Hurt a veteran and no punishment. Is this really America. Veterans having to fear the very same people that were intrusted to care for them. Where is the Leadership in America are they really going to sit back and watch this great country go to hell, because of their greed and only caring about themselves. We have enough enemies trying to tear apart these here United States. That’s sort of ironic United (How when people only… Read more »
Kurt Priessman, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
Kurt Priessman, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
It was very clear, unless Shinseki is an Oscar-winning actor, that the former VHA Under Secretary Petzel lied to the Secretary (just watch the hearing) by saying Helman had done nothing wrong. Having now retired, instead of being fired and prosecuted, it is a farce to believe he and/or any of the other executives, listed in the numbers of resigned or fired would self-incriminate themselves, therefore, the DVA could not present the evidence needed to fire her for the first two charges. Convenient no? Bill, you have it right, but it has become blatant under Obama. So as is obvious… Read more »

My Question is there anything being done?

Robert Erhard Sr.
As of December 2013, The Buffalo DVA denied my claims for compensation including health care because The Buffalo DVA could not find of government sources, including The Buffalo DVA’s own intranet, of my military service, exposure to herbicides (etc.). Yes, during the course of over 4 1/2 years, The New York State Veteran Service Officer also did not find and make use of the following information over 4 1/2 years until I found all of this on the internet: 1. The January 2010 (note Jan. 2010) DVA Compensation & Pension Bulletin Policy (211) provides Information on Vietnam Naval Operations: provides… Read more »

How do you figure you are entitled to 45 years of compensation? Most agent orange related diseases were not granted until May 2001. Nehmer only applies to veterans who applied for presumptive diseases and were denied prior to the diseases being deemed presumptive. The effective date of your claim would be the date the VA received your claim. I would recommend you sharpen up on VA law before spewing off. The law regarding veterans law is 38 USC.

Robert Erhard

Congress’ Intent: Congressional Research Services / Statutory Presumptions provides for Incubation Period(s) in awarding compensation. See page 5 footnotes and Title 38 references (especially 38cfr 3.03) The VA is also subject to The Nehmer Court Order (Co0ngress’ I(ntent): The Nehmer Training Guide (211A) February 2011.


If the VA would quit loosing records, shredding, hiding saying they were burned!

Veterans would have received their disability and this question would not be asked now!

Quit trying to blame the veterans for trying to obtain justice!

Every veteran you turn down and it’s later found that they deserved their disability, they should be granted the disability from when they first applied!

No matter how many times they were denied

Lye, lye, denied, die, one day the shoe will be on the other foot and I hope it’s shoved up where the sun don’t shine!


By the way guys, did you want the football game last night!

Once again they had a big flag, many service men holding it!

Even after they were charging the government to be patriotic!

VA propaganda and an insult to all Americans!

As much as I think the entire VA system and, for that matter, the entire Federal government which has been an unworkable piece of Sxxt all of my life, and worse and worse each fuxxxxg hour of the day that is paid for by all of us in taxes, at least Helman got fired right during Xmas week. Shun the thought, but maybe Bob McDonald wanted to make this firing stick and knew it wouldn’t alone on the first two charges, so maybe accepting gifts, and proof of it, would do the trick if the other charges couldn’t be proved… Read more »
bd, would the comic strip really be a “comic” strip? I do think that some type of thing in the paper daily would be a reminder to non-vets that there is still a problem that we are facing and it is not getting any better. On another note I just e-mailed everyone from Bob, to the lowest person who has sent me a generic e-mail on my problem with my current VA not looking at my last 10 yrs. of VA treatment from another VA. I wished them a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and then asked them… Read more »

Hang in there. Let’s see how it goes in the week or two to come after the holidays.
A comic strip from hell, that is. Happy New Year to all of us battling the “VA”

bd, Allison Hickey replied and passed me off to someone in Washington state (I live in Indiana and made that clear in my e-mail) and treated me as if she had never heard of me. I made that clear to in my e-mail that I had been in contact with each one of them and she still passes me off to someone across the U.S. She is worthless and should be sent to join ISIS. No one else has replied. I thought I would put this here to show others how concerned some the people who are the ones who… Read more »
I can do and have done cartoon’s depicting any number of topic’s. I would love to insult the insulter’s to our intelligence. Actually, I am an Artist and some of my work has dealt with this ‘Pol Pot, Putin’ situation we veterans are in. Volunteer or sent we who answered the call and now face or have faced year’s of miss treatment by the failed VA and other VA entities that can only talk but can’t seem to put what they say in action because their is just greed and the need to fill their pocket’s with that BONUS and… Read more »
Gk Parsons
Gk Parsons

I have written exposé comments (as Lone_Star_Obelisk) at the end of the linked article listed below that names Lobbyist who bought off members of the 2013, 83rd Texas Legislature (with dollar amounts) to pass a family state law that denies disabled veterans due process in family court. My statistical analysis shows the estimated annual amounts of disability benefits award stolen:

Reuben Castro Acosta

01/01/2015 Dear Benjamin Krause and friends, It will be a good year! Here is some added information: From 1988 to 1998, Ms. Susman was a senior executive, shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors of The Jefferson Group, the predecessor company to Jefferson Consulting Group. Prior to this, Ms. Susman managed the Washington operations of McDonnell Douglas’ Health Information Systems Company. [The U.S. Representatives 1998 Cox Report—slammed McDonnell Douglas for Treason.] She was responsible for strategic planning, federal marketing, business development, congressional advocacy, proposal development, and contract negotiations for the Departments of Veteran Affairs (VA) and Defense.… Read more »
Jane Penny
Jane Penny

Fire Ralph Gigiotti

Bill Kelley
Bill Kelley

Put my ex brother in law
Max lewis in jail