Lawmaker Wants US Attorney General to Intervene in Suspicious VA Deaths Probe

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Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Photo via Flickr
Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Photo via Flickr

A third family has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs over the death of a veteran at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, as an investigation into as many as 11 suspicious deaths enters its second year.

The children of John William Hallman filed the federal lawsuit Monday, according to The Associated Press. The suit seeks unspecified damages for the June 2018 death of Hallman, who died at the age of 87 of "unexplained hypoglycemia" two months after two other veterans died unexpectedly.

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Those deaths, in April 2018, were later determined to be homicide by insulin injection.

The families of George Nelson Shaw, a former airman who died at age 81 at the hospital, and Felix Kirk McDermott, a former Army sergeant, have filed similar lawsuits. The VA's Office of Inspector General and the Justice Department have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the veterans' deaths.

Investigators have told VA leadership and West Virginia lawmakers that they have been looking into a "person of interest," but no arrests have been made.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said Wednesday that the lengthy review has put veteran patients at the facility and family members on edge, with rumors circulating that the suspect continues to work at the VA, either as an employee or a contractor.

"It's a vicious rumor going around that is hurting an awful lot of families," Manchin said. "Do you see any end in sight?"

VA officials said the rumor is "absolutely untrue" and the investigation remains in the hands of the IG and the Justice Department.

"This is a disservice to the people of West Virginia," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told Manchin at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, referring to the investigation's lengthy process.

During the course of the investigation, federal law enforcement officials exhumed the bodies of Shaw and McDermott, and autopsies were conducted at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's office.

Shaw was found to have four injection sites -- three on his arms and one on his right leg -- that tested positive for insulin, even though he had no history of diabetes.

McDermott's death was found to have been caused by an insulin injection to his abdomen.

Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that employees are cooperating with authorities and the VA looks forward to "resolution."

Manchin said he plans to ask U.S. Attorney Gen. William Barr to intervene. He sent a letter last fall to Barr expressing concern over the pace of the investigation.

"You can imagine what the families are going through. Why would you put anybody through this? We've got to get an answer," Manchin said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: Wilkie Calls for Release of Information Into Suspicious Deaths in West Virginia

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