Lawmakers: Name Atlanta veterans’ hospital for Max Cleland

December 10, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Two Georgia senators and one U.S. House member are among those who want to name the Atlanta VA Medical Center for Max Cleland, the former Georgia senator and veterans administrator who died in November at 79.

Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff announced the proposed naming of the veterans’ hospital Friday, along with U.S. Rep Nikema Williams. All three are Democrats. The proposal is being cosponsored by 11 other senators, including two Republicans.

Both Georgia senators and all 14 of the state’s U.S. House members must agree to the move. In addition, a statewide chapter of a veterans’ group must support it.

Cleland was a U.S. Army captain in Vietnam when he lost his right arm and two legs while picking up a fallen grenade in 1968. He blamed himself for decades, until he learned that another soldier had dropped it.

Fellow veterans cheered when then-President Jimmy Carter appointed Cleland, a fellow Democrat, to lead the Veterans Administration, a post he held from 1977 to 1981. The VA and the wider medical community recognized post-traumatic stress disorder — what had been previously been dismissed as shell shock — as a genuine condition while Cleland was in charge, and he worked to provide veterans and their families with better care.

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Cleland was Georgia’s secretary of state for 14 years and then served a single term in the Senate. He lost the seat in 2002 after Republican Saxby Chambliss questioned Cleland’s commitment to defending the nation amid disputes over homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Cleland said the loss triggered his own PTSD, but he recovered to serve the nation in other positions.

Cleland died from congestive heart failure at his home in Atlanta on Nov. 9.

Warnock called Cleland “a true giant of public service, a compassionate leader and passionate patriot with a big heart for our veterans and communities,” while Ossoff said the naming would “honor his service and sacrifice.”