Lawmakers say VA execs lied to them, call for resignations after Ch. 2 investigation

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Lawmakers tell Channel 2 Action News they believe the veterans hospital in DeKalb County hid a soldier's suicide from them, until minutes before we exposed the death.

When Washington lawmakers showed up at the Atlanta VA Medical Center this week for a big accountability session with hospital leaders, they went back thinking they'd hear it all.

If not, they promised heads would roll. It's a promise at least two of those lawmakers told Channel 2's Aaron Diamant they're going to keep.

"They lied to us. The lied to members of Congress," Rep. David Scott, R-Georgia, told Diamant.

Friday afternoon, Scott demanded resignations from the Atlanta VA Medical Center's executive staff.

"They have failed. They have failed in the biggest way in the most hurtful way," Scott said.

An immediate call for action the day after Diamant confirmed mental health patient Joseph Petit's November suicide inside the DeKalb County facility went unnoticed by hospital staff for nearly 24 hours.

"It is the public's confidence that we've got to be concerned about now," Scott said.

A Channel 2 Action News investigation first sparked congressional concern.

Diamant and Channel 2 Washington bureau reporter Scott MacFarlane uncovered federal reports blaming mismanagement by hospital leaders for three patient deaths and later, an accrediting agency report that the facility rife with healthcare quality and safety problems.

Monday, members of the Georgia congressional delegation and House Veterans Committee Chairman Jeff Miller traveled to Atlanta to grill hospital leaders and get answers.

"They told us that this was it," Scott said.

Afterwards, Miller made one thing very clear.

"If I walk away and find out that somebody was lying to me, I will make the very ground that they walk on shake," Miller told Diamant on Monday.

After watching Diamant's report Thursday night, Miller sent Diamant an email saying, "It's clear now that VA officials had something to hide, especially given the fact that they did not notify us of Joseph Petit's tragic suicide until minutes before the media was set to report on it."

Meantime, Scott is pushing for President Barack Obama to weigh in on what Channel 2 Action News has uncovered.

"We sent him a report over to the White House, which included WSB's news stories on these," Scott said. "This needs to fall right at his front steps."

Diamant asked the VA several times Friday for an explanation of why the congressmen were not told about Petit's death, and the congressmen's reaction.

What Diamant got was the same statement he got Thursday word for word, calling every vet's suicide a tragedy, offering condolences to families and they will continue to strengthen suicide prevention efforts.