Lawmaker troubled by limited disciplinary action over Atlanta VA scandal

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has uncovered details of disciplinary action taken against Atlanta VA Medical Center employees after federal reports linked problems at the center to patient deaths.

For more than two months, despite countless requests, the Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to say who's been punished or how.

"I don't believe that Atlanta has handled this appropriately," said Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Miller did not hide his outrage Wednesday over the VA's response to the federal reports that blamed mismanagement by Atlanta VA Medical Center leaders for three patient deaths.

"I do believe that there needs to be serious consequences up to and including termination of jobs," Miller told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.

In a June letter from Miller to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Miller demanded, "a comprehensive list of any and all disciplinary actions that have been taken."

So far, the VA has kept those actions secret from the public, despite the hospital's new director Leslie Wiggins' promise of transparency.

"I am committed to making all changes that I do here as a medical center, as much as I can, as public as I can," Wiggins told Channel 2 Action News shortly after taking control of the DeKalb County hospital in May.

Disciplinary records Miller confirmed the VA recently sent him left him stunned.

The week after we exposed those scathing reports in April, the VA reprimanded just two employees. The department also proposed reprimands for two other staffers in May, but the process is not complete.

"Certainly when somebody dies, a letter of reprimand is not sufficient," Miller argued.

Miller said he's finalizing plans for his committee to hold hearings in Atlanta. Meanwhile, he is sending a strong message to Wiggins.

"Hopefully she will be able to bring forth changes within the leadership there and certainly the way veterans can trust those at the facility in the future," Miller said.

Maybe most troubling for Miller, those reprimands may only stay in the employees' files for three years, and they can be removed after just six months.

Diamant did ask again, but is still waiting for the VA to provide the names, or at the very least, the positions, of those Atlanta VA Medical Center staffers the department has disciplined.