ATLANTA -- There's a lot the Department of Veteran Affairs is not telling. Like naming names when it comes to those 42 facilities under investigation. They've not confirmed Atlanta but we have confirmed there have been problems here in Georgia before.
"Since I've been retired from the Army in 2005. it's been pretty much the same process: hurry up and wait for nothing," said retired Army veteran Greg Wells.
Veterans are speaking out. And so are their families.
"I didn't know how far and how fast that slippery slope was," Peggy Portwine commented while talking about the death of her son, Brian Portwine, who took his own life. "I think that he felt lost, that he lost his hope. And if you don't have hope, the VA should've given him that hope and the treatment."
A 2013 investigation has shown problems with two deaths from delays in mental health treatment overseen by the Atlanta VA Medical Center. A 2014 review showed three deaths in Augusta of patients waiting for cancer treatment.
Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey, like many others, wants a top-down action.
"These things have got to stop. I have indeed called for Gen. Shinseki to step down," Gingrey said.
The heat has turned up on the head of the Veteran Affairs, Eric Shinseki, following a damaging, new report, The Inspector General says "inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic" and "42 VA facilities nationally are under investigation."
When we searched the Office of Inspector General for Georgia reports into problems, we found just the two involving Augusta and the Atlanta Medical Center. And when asked whether any of Georgia's 35 VA medical facilities are being investigated, we got a one line statement from Washington, "we are not providing the locations of the facilities."
11Alive's Help Desk reached out to all 14 Georgia Congressmen to see what light they could shed on the investigation. Their comments are as follows:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland
Congressman Westmoreland's weekly column (which usually goes out Mondays but was sent out last Friday because of the holiday weekend) outlines his concerns on the VA controversy. The IG report has intensified his feelings on the situation. See click the link below for the column:
Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson
Congressman Johnson did comment on the VA controversy and IG investigation in his 2014 Memorial Day address to constituents: http://hankjohnson.house.gov/press-release/rep-johnsons-memorial-day-2014-message. As far as VA hospitals in GA being investigated -- I have not heard that, but I can check with staffers in D.C. and see what they might know.
Rep. Phil Gingrey
"Our servicemen and women deserve the quality care they were promised when they signed on the dotted line," said Gingrey. "Since the Inspector General uncovered the tragic—and preventable—deaths at the Atlanta VAMC over a year ago, I've repeatedly demanded answers and accountability from the VA. As more incidents have been uncovered across the country, it's become clear that these deplorable incidents aren't isolated, but systemic. We must work swiftly to correct the problem and hold those responsible accountable."
Rep. Tom Graves
Rep. Tom Graves, "Reports about the awful treatment of America's veterans are growing more disturbing every day. The men and women who answered the call to serve, and in many cases rushed into harm's way on behalf of our country, should not return home only to die waiting in line for the care we promised to provide. Fixing the VA requires accountability, and the House has started that process by passing legislation to allow the swift termination of senior officials who have failed to do their jobs."
Rep. Doug Collins
The following attributed to Rep. Doug Collins (GA-09):
"Our veterans have had to live with the problems at the VA for far longer than we've been talking about it. Accountability has been a problem at the VA for a long time, and if Secretary Shinseki decides to step down, which at this point I believe he should, a lot of senior level people at the VA need to step down with him. Just last week we voted to withhold bonuses from VA executives who have presided over this mess which is a small step to addressing this problem, but any step we can take, we must. If it takes every sector of the federal government to get to the bottom of this, I believe we owe that to our veterans."
And there have been multiple congressional field hearings in Georgia over the last couple of years about the issues we're seeing at the local level—we're happy to point you to specific information on those if you haven't come across them already.
Rep. John Lewis'office said, "we won't be issuing a statement on this issue at this time."