An Atlanta surgeon is suing after he says he was booted from his prestigious role at a local hospital and forced into a lesser position while overseas aiding soldiers injured in battle.
Atlanta station WSB-TV reports Dr. William Cooper was deployed to Afghanistan in 2017 but returned to find that he no longer had his job as medical director of the cardiovascular unit at Kennestone Hospital, a department he says he built from the ground up. Now he’s taking healthcare provider WellStar Health System to court over the issue.
“It’s about veterans, it’s about the military,” said Cooper, who joined the U.S. Army Reserve in high school and was recently deployed for four months. “It’s about people being treated the right way.”
He added: “This is about every veteran and every soldier out there that fights for his country every day.”
In his lawsuit, the doctor and Army colonel alleges that because he was deployed, WellStar demoted him from his post as medical director of cardiovascular surgery and instead offered him a less prestigious job at another metro hospital for lesser pay.
Cooper’s lawyer, Richard Valladares, called the move “not legal” and pointed out that the law protects deployed service members, as well as the National Guard, when they return from active duty.
“It’s not patriotic and that’s why this lawsuit is here,” Valladares told WSB-TV.
In a statement, WellStar Health System denied Cooper’s claims and insisted his military service had nothing to do with his demotion.
“We have a full appreciation for Dr. Cooper’s service to our country,” it began. “However … the allegations in the lawsuit are false, and WellStar Health System will vigorously defend against these baseless claims in court.”
The doctor, who said he got an inkling something was up with his job when he was stationed overseas, still believes otherwise.
Cooper said prayer and support of his family and friends are helping him through this tough time.
Watch more in the video below.