An 87-year-old Korean War veteran is dead after he was somehow critically injured while being transported from his nursing home to a Veteran’s Affairs clinic for a checkup, Channel 2 Action News has learned.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Justin Gray was in Gwinnett County, where John Hall’s neck was broken and he was paralyzed. Doctors say the injuries clearly must have been due to an auto accident during medical transport, but there is no public record of a crash.
“He didn’t just bump his head,” Hall’s sister, Ann Hawkins, said. “His neck was broken and he was paralyzed and they’re trying to cover it up.”
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Hall was a welder and a former champion weightlifter who Hawkins said was still strong as an ox. He was living in a Snellville nursing home and fighting dementia.
In July, he was taken from the nursing home, Parkside Rehabilitation, to the VA clinic in Lawrenceville for a regular check-up.
“He didn’t leave the senior center on life support,” Hawkins said. “That’s not the case. Clearly, something happened in the middle and everyone is pointing the finger at someone else.”
Medical records fill in some of the gaps. According to the Hall’s records at Gwinnett Medical Center, he was “involved in an MVC (motor vehicle collision)” on his way to the VA clinic. But it wasn’t until the admissions nurse at the VA clinic spotted Hall in clear medical distress while sitting alone in the waiting room that anyone called 911.
It was only after he was rushed to Gwinnett Medical Center that the broken neck was discovered.
Hall died a week later after being taken off life support.
Hall’s family has spent the four months since trying to get answers about a deadly accident that no public records show ever happened.
“He should be treated better than this,” his sister said. “Anyone should be treated better than this.”
The nursing home points the finger at the VA. Their insurance company wrote, “Our liability determination is that Mr. Hall was in the Veteran’s Administration vehicle and in the care of the VA when the accident occurred.”
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The VA contends the nursing home was responsible.
“The Veteran was transported from a non-VA private pay community nursing home by non-VA transportation. A non-VA caregiver escorted the Veteran into our clinic for his appointment,” the VA said in a statement.
The VA did not answer all of Gray’s questions about that transport, expressing condolences to the family and saying only that at the clinic, Hall was assessed and transferred appropriately, but did not mention an automobile accident or what caused the injures.
Hall’s sister said the driver should have and could have acted to try and save her brother’s life.
“He should have stopped immediately, and he should have called police,” Hawkins said. “He should have called for an ambulance. He or she just continued on to the VA clinic.”
The VA didn’t answer Gray’s questions about who transported Hall and if it was an employee of the VA or a vehicle of theirs that was involved.
Channel 2 Action News is following up with Freedom of Information Act requests for the information that the VA didn’t provide.