Sen. Isakson calling for hearing over Atlanta VA scandal

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A Georgia senator is calling for hearings following a series of scathing federal reports about gross mismanagement at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, reports first uncovered by Channel 2 Action News.

Those reports blamed mismanagement by leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital for patient deaths. Several Georgia U.S. House representatives have pushed for hearings. Now, Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant has learned there is a push on the Senate side for hearings in metro Atlanta, and soon.

"We need to find out where mistakes were made," U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., told Diamant. "People should be held accountable, there's no question about that."

Isakson sits on the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee and on Wednesday, formally requested committee leaders hold a rare field hearing at the DeKalb County hospital.

"The veteran is the focal point of this investigation. We need to find out what they think about the care they're receiving," Isakson said.

A Channel 2 Action News investigation first sparked congressional concern two months ago.

In May, the chairman of the House committee on Veterans Affairs showed up at the Atlanta VA with members of the Georgia delegation after Channel 2 Action News uncovered federal reports that blamed mismanagement by hospital leaders for three mental health patient deaths, including two suicides.

"Obviously, there were some egregious errors that were made," House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller said.

Since then, Channel 2 Action News' reporting has uncovered a third suicide and an accrediting agency report full of safety problems.

The hospital now has a new director and mental health chief, who last week laid out a long list of changes in place or planned.

"Who should be held accountable?" Diamant asked Atlanta VA Medical Center acting Chief of Mental Health Karen Drexler.

"We should all be held accountable for what we have responsibility for," she said.

It's why Isakson wants the hearing held in August. He said the stakes are too high to wait.

"It will happen, and it's unfortunate that we've had the incidents take place at Atlanta, but it's a national problem for the VA," Isakson said.

VA leaders turned down Diamant's request for an on-camera interview Wednesday, but late in the day, Channel 2 received a statement from hospital director Leslie Wiggins saying she takes the concerns 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."



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