AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Atlanta VA employees reassigned pending investigation of racially charged messages

The VA reassigned the head of the agency's national health enrollment office in Atlanta and another employee pending the outcome of an investigation into racially charged messages that included mention of sending people to "the ovens."

The move comes after a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News this week about the messages between HEC Director Angel Lawrence and program analyst Nathan Jaco.

Lawrence earns $125,132 directing the more than 200 employees at the national Health Eligibility Center that oversees the health care enrollment system for millions of veterans across the country. The beleaguered center has struggled in recent years with various management failures and breakdowns that delayed or denied veterans access to the care.

One instant message exchange involved Jaco talking about "hating hippies" and saying "parasitic class will be purged. Into the ovens.” After asking him to take the comment back, Lawrence later sent a reply that said: "I just howled out loud laughing."

A recent audit found the VA's health enrollment system in disarray and lacking proper oversight.

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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.