“Daddy hadn’t been washed. He hadn’t been turned,” Karla Lawson said when NewsChannel 5 first met her. “They informed me maggots had been found in one of his wounds,” Lawson told a legislative committee. “We saw dad’s wound, and it was so deep you could stick your fist into it.”
It all began with a call from a viewer who was concerned that her father, a former Marine, was not getting the care he needed and deserved from the Tennessee State Veterans Home, the state-run nursing home for veterans. The initial story prompted state lawmakers to hold a hearing to learn more about the conditions and care provided at the facility. It also led to a state Health Department investigation that found numerous critical violations at the nursing home and led to fines and a ban on accepting new patients. Other families contacted NewsChannel 5 with their own allegations of neglect at the nursing home. The executive director of the veterans home board was forced to resign.
Judges said: “At some point during the story the viewer should come away a different person … a more knowledgeable person. This story had ‘it’ on all emotions.” Judges added that they were “disgusted, informed, motivated and inspired by the story. We all benefit from watching this story.”
“NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Tennessee State Veterans Home” was a collaboration between investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus, photojournalist Bryan Staples, producer Kevin Wisniewski and executive producer Phil Williams. “We always felt this was an issue that couldn’t be ignored,” they said. “There was a coordinated effort to diminish our reporting by hospital administrators and employees, but our findings were verified when the Department of Health also found serious violations and other families continued to come forward.”