VA horror show continues: Shakeup after dying Atlanta vet suffers more than 100 ant bites in VA nursing home

“He served his country in the Air Force,” Laquna Ross told WSB-TV in Atlanta about her father Joel Marrable last week, “and he deserved better.” Ross had visited her father, a Vietnam veteran, in the VA nursing home where Marrable received care related to terminal cancer, and discovered him covered in bites. Ants had swarmed him, leaving more than one hundred bites, and the facility never even bothered to inform her of the problem. Marrable died shortly afterward, a death Ross feels was hastened by the ant attack.

Yesterday, the VA announced a major (if temporary) shakeup after WSB-TV aired this segment over the weekend:

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant spoke with a woman last week who said her father was bitten 100 plus times by ants before his death at the VA Medical Center’s Eagles’ Nest Community Living Center in Atlanta.

On Tuesday, the VA announced that the regional director was placed on administrative leave, and several other employees were moved to different positions in response to what happened. They are also planning to retrain all VA personnel involved in reporting urgent issues.

“What happened at Eagles’ Nest was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that Veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility,” Dr. Richard Stone,VHA executive in charge, said in the release Tuesday. “Transparency and accountability are key principles at VA, and they will guide our efforts in this regard.”

The regional chief medical officer was detailed to administrative duties and seven staff members were moved into non-patient care positions while the VA investigates.

The VA attempted to argue that they took immediate steps to rectify the problem once discovered,’s Patricia Kime reported last night. However, that doesn’t match up to Ross’ testimony in the video above:

The room was cleaned, but staff could not eradicate the ants. Marrable, who had cancer and was dying, was moved to a different room. He died Sept. 14.

“If it didn’t promote his body to die quicker, what is the protocol within the VA just to manage when something like this happens?” Ross told the television station.

The Atlanta VA Health Care System issued a statement saying the staff took immediate action to ensure that no other residents were affected. They stripped beds and rooms, removed open containers of food from living quarters and brought in a private pest control company for an independent assessment, as well as a regional pest control expert from the VA to assess the issue.

This explanation doesn’t sound sufficient. Ant infestations don’t just happen overnight, not to the extent of swarming over people and infesting the floors, walls, and ceilings as Ross described. She also noted that staff had told her they attempted to clean the room while leaving her father in it, only to move him after a second swarm began developing. Why not move him immediately? And for that matter, why did no one tell Marrable’s family about the attack?

“It certainly makes you wonder,” a WSB-TV anchor remarked yesterday, “how it got to that point.” There’s no need to wonder, though; we have seen this dynamic over and over again at the VA’s single-payer facilities and system. In fact, want to guess why the highest ranking VA official put on leave for this incident, regional network director Leslie Wiggins, first got assigned to Atlanta in 2013? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions it at the bottom of its report:

Wiggins was assigned in 2013 to manage the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur after the deaths of three veterans linked to widespread mismanagement in the hospital’s mental health unit. The then-secretary of the VA endorsed the work Wiggins did a year after her appointment, and she was later elevated to the regional director.

Problems remained as the Atlanta hospital received the department’s worst reviews, one star out of five, about a year ago.

What. A. Shock. Nothing changes, but the executives keep getting promotions and bonuses. They are the true beneficiaries of this government-run single-payer health care system. And they will be the beneficiaries of the one to come, too.