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PHOENIX — An interim director will take over the embattled Phoenix VA Health Care System on Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced.

Steve Young will oversee delivery of health care to an estimated 85,000 veterans and an operating budget of about $500 million.

The move comes as the Phoenix VA faces an investigation of patient deaths. In recent weeks, critics have alleged that administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get appointments.

Director Sharon Helman and two other employees were placed on administrative leave May 1.

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Young has been the director of the Salt Lake City VA Health Care System since June 2009.

The claims are the latest to emerge as VA hospitals struggle with a huge volume of patients, including aging vets and a newer influx from wars over the last decade. Washington is among several states where delays in care or poor oversight have been reported.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to testify this week before a Senate committee.

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