Sen. Isakson irate about VA nursing home where Vietnam vet was covered in ant bites

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson released a strongly-worded statement after and Channel 2 Action News reported on the ant-infested conditions a Vietnam veteran lived through in his final days.

Joel Marrable, an Air Force veteran, was found covered in ants twice while staying at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s campus in DeKalb County. He had more than 100 ant bites from the two incidents.

RELATED: Vietnam vet with cancer found covered in ants before dying at DeKalb VA nursing home

“I am shocked, horrified and downright maddened by the news that a veteran under the care of the VA was treated so poorly and without any regard for his wellbeing,” Isakson’s said Thursday. “This patient, at the end of his life, was clearly not being monitored closely enough, and I am so sad for his family who had to discover his insect-infested conditions before anything was reportedly done.”

Laquna Ross, Marrable’s daughter, told Channel 2 her father died shortly after the incidents due to his battle with cancer.

This is a photo of Joel Marrable from when he served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

She said the nursing home’s staff didn’t tell her about the ant bites until she arrived to visit him last week. Marrable had dozens of swollen red bumps all over his body, and both of his hands were covered with bites.

“(The staff member) said, ‘You know, the ants,’” Ross said. “The staff member says to me, ‘When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn’t even alive, because the ants were all over him.’”

Isakson (R- Ga), who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said he contacted VA Deputy Secretary James Byrne "to demand answers and express (his) dissatisfaction" for allowing this incident to occur.

The senator, who recently announced he is retiring at the end of the year, also said that Congress wasn't informed of the incident until hours before the news reports were published.

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“I’ve also spoken to the veteran’s daughter and offered my deepest condolences and offered to help in any way I can to ensure that her family is taken care of and that those who allowed these conditions to persist be held accountable to the fullest extent,” Isakson’s statement read.

Isakson, who served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 to 1972, said the Atlanta VA Health Care System confirmed to him that at least three veterans were affected by the Sept. 2 ant infestation. In addition to covering Marrable, the ants were found crawling on the ceiling, walls and beds.

Marrable was not moved from his room until Ross found out about the incidents and complained, she said.

The VA previously sent Channel 2 a statement apologizing for the conditions and staff’s actions, adding that measures have been taken to address the ant problem.

All bedrooms at the nursing home were stripped, cleaned and inspected for ants. The VA also said that all open containers and open food items were removed from the nursing home’s bedrooms.

Channel 2 reported the VA said it considers the incident an opportunity to re-evaluate its facilities and practices.