Lawmakers Hear Emotional Testimony About Veterans Home - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Lawmakers Hear Emotional Testimony About Veterans Home

(Story created: 6/8/06)

Families of veterans living at the Tennessee State Veterans Home delivered a clear message to a legislative committee: Tennessee is ignoring its veterans. Some lawmakers now call this a scandal.

"It's a very serious problem, and I'm ashamed of what I've seen and heard here," said state Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

Lawmakers reacted Thursday to what was sometimes emotional testimony.

"My father is a son of this state. He is truly a Tennessee volunteer," patient's daughter Jessica Chapman said.

It was testimony about conditions inside the state-run nursing home in Murfreesboro for veterans -- conditions first exposed by a NewsChannel 5 investigation.

"They informed me that maggots had been found in one of his wounds," patient's daughter Karla Henry said.

As Henry first told NewsChannel 5, her father David Lawson developed horrific bed sores - the result, she says, of just plain neglect.

"My brother and I were shocked and horrified when we saw dad's wound, as it was so deep you could stick your fist into it," Henry testified.

She even gave the committee photos of the wounds, which made some lawmakers visibly upset.

"It's unbelievable, and it puts you in position where you really feel you need to go out and arrest somebody, because nobody, no patient should have to live like this," Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, responded.

After the hearing, Norris said that the testimony was "shocking. I'm very upset about what I've learned and just like other scandals that have surfaced, we've got to get to the bottom of it."

Lawmakers said they want more answers.

But they agree with the families that Tennessee shouldn't retreat on its promise to its veterans.

"My husband fought in 13 campaigns in World War II," Willodene Jackson told the committee. "He was combat-wounded. He never asked for a thing in the world until now. He needs our help."

Committee members said they'll be calling administrators from the veterans home to appear before the committee in the coming weeks.

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