Phoenix VA director retiring after less than a year

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Deborah Amdur took over as medical director of the Phoenix VA in December 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Deborah Amdur took over as medical director of the Phoenix VA in December 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Barbara Fallen will serve as the acting director until a permanent replacement can be found. (Source: LomaLinda.VA.gov) Barbara Fallen will serve as the acting director until a permanent replacement can be found. (Source: LomaLinda.VA.gov)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

After less than a year on the job, the medical director of the Phoenix VA, Deborah Amdur, is retiring for "personal health reasons, a Phoenix VA Health Care Systems spokesman announced Friday.

Barbara Fallen will serve as the acting director until a permanent replacement can be found.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Amdur for her tireless service to America's Veterans," Dr. David J. Shulkin, the undersecretary for health, said in a statement.

Amdur took the lead at the Phoenix VA when it was reeling from scandal and numerous allegations from veterans and insiders that vets' health care was being mismanaged, sometimes with deadly consequences.

SPECIAL SECTION: VA hospital troubles

We had already been sharing those stories with you for months by the time Amdur started at the Phoenix VA in December 2015.

In April, after only a few months into the job, she sat down for a candid interview.

READ: VA director breaks silence on hospital issues (April 8, 2016)

"I have nothing to hide here," she said.

She said transparency was a top priority, both for the veterans the Phoenix VA and the employees who work there.

After hearing some of the stories that were shared with us, including veterans' issues with enrolling in the Veteran Choice Program, Amur said she took immediate action to alleviate -- or at least mitigate --  the problem.

"We are working very hard to ensure that every veteran connected to this health care system has a positive experience," Amdur, who has worked with the VA for more than 25 years, said in early April, acknowledging that there was still much room for improvement and work to be done.Now, less than five months later, Amdur is leaving -- not just the Phoenix VA, but the VA entirely.

While accusing leaders at the VA Central Office of abusing their powers, one Phoenix VA employee commended Amdur for her prompt handling of local issues. That was a little more than two months ago.

READ: VA whistleblower calls out VA Central Office senior leadership (June 15, 2016)

At the time, there was no indication for the Amdur would soon be leaving. Aside from the mention of "personal health reasons," no other information about Amdur's departure was released.

The women stepping into Amdur's shoes -- for the time being -- is described as "an experienced leader who will continue the tremendous effort being made to improve access to high quality [sic]  health care for Veterans in the Phoenix area."

Fallen has been with the VA for more than 35 years, serving most recently as the director of the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, which is charged with the care of more than 71,000 veterans in Southern California's Inland Empire. That is slightly smaller than the Phoenix VA, which serves more than 80,000 veterans. 

She was appointed the director at Loma Linda in June 2013. She has also served as acting director for the Southern Nevada VA, acting network director for the VA Desert Pacific Healthcare Network and worked at facilities in Long Beach, Albuquerque, Temple, TX and Hines, IL.

This will not be Fallen's first stint in Phoenix. She worked at the Phoenix VA from 1985 to 1987, during which she earned a master's degree in public administration and health care administration from Arizona State University.

Fallen will be the fifth director at the Phoenix VA since Sharon Helman was fired in 2014 after the passage of the VA Accountability Act amid the nationwide scandal about wait times vets endured to get even basic care. She sued to overturn the firing last May.

Following Helman's removal in May 2014, three people served as interim director until Amdur's appointment -- Steve Young, who is now the acting deputy undersecretary for operations and management for the VA, Glenn Costie, who is now the director of the Dayton VA Medical Center, and Glen Grippen, who came out of retirement to lead the Phoenix VA and retired again after his time there.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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