Pressure grows for firings over Atlanta VA scandal

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:


DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned there is growing pressure on managers of the Atlanta VA Medical Center to fire or discipline some of their workers.

A group of military veterans and key members of Congress say "heads must roll" in the wake of the scandalous series of patient deaths at the hospital.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane, who broke the story of the scandal in April, talked to Pete Hegseth, who runs a veterans group called Concerned Veterans for America, about the scandal.

Pete Hegseth, a former U.S. Army infantryman, said his group can't believe there hasn't been a major shakeup inside the VA Medical Center in DeKalb County.

"The fact that no one gets fired when people are dying in a facility, that's as bad as it gets and should make everyone outraged," Hegseth told MacFarlane.

Internal Veterans Administration investigators recently revealed at least four patient deaths, including suicides, were directly linked to mismanagement and red tape in the mental health program at the Atlanta VA.

The medical center's new CEO said she would do a 30-day review of the medical center before deciding on what changes to make.

Thursday is day 30. Channel 2 Action News checked multiple times with the VA, and there have been no announced firings, suspensions or disciplinary actions at the medical center.

The U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee and Georgia congressional leaders have been pushing the Atlanta VA to make major changes. In one congressman's words, he wants to have "heads roll" because of the scandal.

“Now is not the time for bureaucratic slaps on the wrist or intra-agency transfers. If a VA employee doesn’t take patient safety seriously, the answer isn’t to move them to another facility, the answer is to remove them from VA altogether,” said  Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Former VA administrator Daren Selnick said scandals like the one in the Atlanta VA mental health ward risk damaging the agency's reputation.

"A lot of veterans will go to volunteer mental health professionals because they don't trust the government and they don't like the treatment," Selnick said.

Channel 2 Action News has previously received a statement from Atlanta VA hospital director Leslie Wiggins saying she takes the concerns at the hospital seriously, adding, "We look forward to working with members of Congress as we move forward to provide our Veterans high-quality medical care in a safe and secure environment."

A VA spokesman told Channel 2 Action News Thursday, “(The) VA has reviewed the IG report including any recommendations.  Appropriate actions have been taken in response. Privacy laws in place to protect the rights of individuals prevent VA from publicly discussing agency actions regarding specific employees.”

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