News Details

VA checked on troubled Marine months after suicide

Source: WSB Atlanta
Published: Wednesday 01 May, 2013

ATLANTA — A mother says her schizophrenic son's suicide is another tragic example of the problems at a the Atlanta VA hospital.

Channel 2 Action News was first to report that an audit blamed negligence and mismanagement at the hospital for at least three patient deaths.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant confirmed late Wednesday that one of the hospital's top leaders has been relieved of his position.

This comes on the same day that Diamant got an email from the VA expressing its "heartfelt remorse" for sending a letter offering help to a veteran who committed suicide months earlier.
Diamant met with that Marine's mother, who feels it's just one more example of the major problems federal investigators found at the Decatur hospital.

"I'm very proud of my son, very proud," Montrease Coleman said, remembering her son as a hero. "He was such a good young man."

Once a star student, Akeem Jackson rubbed shoulders with former President Jimmy Carter and Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron.

At age 23, the former Marine landed at the Atlanta VA Medical Center as a struggling schizophrenic.

"It was frightening. It was traumatic. It was confusion," Coleman said.

Coleman showed Diamant the stack of VA medical records documenting her son's disease and the potential for suicide.

"What alarms me is you have a record here that says,'Patient has been flagged high risk for suicide,' and this is in February 2012," Coleman said.

Jackson shot himself in September 2012 after nearly a year bouncing around the VA's outpatient mental health system.

"He was not tracked properly. He was not monitored the way I felt like he should have been," Coleman said.

After Channel 2 Action News broke story of scathing federal reports that blamed negligence and mismanagement by VA mental health leaders for at least three other patient deaths, Coleman reached out to show Diamant a letter a VA staffer sent to her son.

"I am the suicide prevention case manager for the Atlanta VA. I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits," Coleman read.

The letter came seven months after Jackson took his life which records show Coleman reported to the VA within days.

"I was just angry and just saddened, and it just confirmed my feelings of he was just a number," Coleman said.

Jackson was one of thousands of veterans that rely on the VA for mental health care, but for Coleman, "He was my first child and I miss him. He was still a young man. He had so much to live for."

The VA had also apologized to Coleman for the letter last month after she called to complain.

Meanwhile, Diamant confirmed that, after seeing Channel 2's earlier reports, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee and members of the Georgia congressional delegation will be at the Atlanta VA Medical Center on Monday to get some answers from hospital leaders about the problems investigators found.