Documents show no VA execs. disciplined over patient deaths

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has confirmed top leaders at the Atlanta VA Medical Center have not been disciplined despite patient deaths linked to mismanagement at the hospital.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant obtained a pile of personnel files from Atlanta VA Medical Center executives and top mental health leaders through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Diamant filed the request in April when a Channel 2 Action News investigation first exposed federal reports that blamed mismanagement by hospital leaders for at least three mental health patient deaths.

For months, powerful Washington lawmakers have demanded accountability and called for heads to roll.

"People need to be fired over this," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia.

Tuesday, Diamant traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask the VA's undersecretary for health, Dr. Robert Petzel, what he thinks.

"There are many ways to hold people accountable besides the loss of jobs, and believe me we are holding the appropriate people accountable," Petzel said.

Which is why Diamant requested the personnel files of the former acting director and now associate director for patient and nursing services, Sandy Leake; Associate Director Thomas Grace; Assistant Director Sheila Meuse, and the chief of staff, Dr. David Bower.

While very heavily redacted, the documents show there is no record of any disciplinary actions over the patient deaths, which sources said would be in their personnel files if any had been taken.

But Diamant did notice plenty of pay hikes and performance awards.

Diamant previously reported on two still-unnamed hospital workers who got letters of reprimand in their file.

It's a discrepancy Petzel may be forced to explain at a Senate field hearing in Atlanta next week.

"We'll wait till the field hearing and see how this evolves, and I'm looking forward to it actually," Petzel said.

In response to what Diamant found, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller sent a statement, calling it "more outrageous proof of the department's widespread lack of accountability" and saying, "The fact that VA leaders in Atlanta and elsewhere across the country are being rewarded rather than punished for their incompetence is downright shameful."