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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Isakson Addresses Tragedy Involving Atlanta Veteran

'We want to confront every tragedy when it happens and do everything we can to put every resource behind it, and see to it that it never happens again'

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today addressed the tragedy involving an Atlanta veteran that occurred yesterday, June 26, in Atlanta.

During his opening remarks at the committee hearing to consider the nomination of Robert Wilkie to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Isakson highlighted the need for a more responsive VA, citing the tragic example of 58 year-old John Michael Watts who burned himself in front of the Georgia State Capitol Building and who remains hospitalized with serious burns.

Video from Isakson’s introductory remarks at today’s hearing can be found here, and a transcript of Isakson’s remarks is below.

“Yesterday in Atlanta, Ga., a sad occasion and a tragedy took place, when a veteran of the United States military set himself on fire and was severely injured near the state Capitol. Being my home state, my home city, my country, my capitol and a veteran, I immediately called home to find out about the circumstances of the situation.

“I’m very proud of the response that was given to him almost instantaneously. The VA, [according to] my conversation with them, were doing everything they could to ascertain everything that had led up to this incident, and everything that they had done and everything that could have been done, and I am satisfied with the information that I have to-date that their response has been thorough and complete. 

“Obviously saving the veteran’s life is the number one goal and priority, which is in the process of being done now, and we hope and pray that will happen.  

“The reason I bring it up is this: We’ve had a situation here for my last four years here on the committee where every headline I ever saw about the VA was something that happened five years ago that was either wrong or bad; never about something happening now that’s good. And we’ve had so much good stuff happen, the chairman myself and the ranking member from Montana, that I just thought it was time to say this: We want to make good headlines. We want to confront every tragedy when it happens and do everything we can to put every resource behind it, and see to it that it never happens again.

“But we also want to uplift those in the VA that are doing so much to make the VA a better VA today than it was in the past. Jon Tester and I are going to work as hard as we can to see that happens, and I am confident that Republicans and Democrats on this committee will continue to do the same thing.

“We have a respected, talented nominee who you’ll hear from in just a little bit for secretary. We’ll go through this hearing today. We hope if everything goes smooth, we’ll have a secretary in the near future sitting in the president’s cabinet for the VA who will begin building forward on the legislation this committee has passed in the last two years to make caregivers possible, accountability possible, better health care for our veterans possible, [and who will see to it that we have accessibility] for veterans who live in rural, sparsely populated areas [and that they] are cared for.”

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