VA to knock down Eagles’ Nest, build new veterans home

Metro-area veterans were moved out of ant-infested facility in April
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s journalists follow the facts, because you deserve to know what’s really going on.

Eagles’ Nest Community Living Center, the problematic Veterans Administration long-term care facility­, is being decommissioned.

On Wednesday, the VA Southeast Network announced the permanent closing of Eagles’ Nest after determining the Decatur building is no longer suitable for residential patient care.

The VA said it plans to rebuild a state-of-the-art facility in metro Atlanta. It also plans to increase long-term-care beds at the Trinka-Davis Veterans Village in Carrollton, about 50 miles west of Atlanta.

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The VA transferred Eagles’ Nest’s 34 residents in April to other facilities in Alabama, South Carolina and Dublin, Ga. The VA said at the time it moved them out of the 90,000 square-foot building to limit their exposure to COVID-19.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing internal VA documents, reported earlier this week that local officials had recommended Eagles’ Nest be replaced after determining an infestation of fire ants couldn’t be eradicated. Other VA documents warned of cracks in the roof.

The internal VA documents suggested planning and construction for a new facility could take five years and cost more than $70 million.

ExploreVA documents: Tear down Atlanta long-term care facility

Calls to the VA to determine an actual cost and location were not immediately returned Wednesday.

But in a press release, the VA said demolition will begin in fall 2021 with a projected completion date of fall 2022.

The decision wasn’t easy, but needed, according to Veterans Integrated Service Network 7 Interim Director Joe Battle.

“As caretakers of our nation’s heroes, it’s our responsibility to take decisive action when appropriate. We are working diligently to quickly create and execute a plan to rebuild and address the Atlanta VA’s long-term care bed needs and are committed to ensuring there are no delays in deciding the best way forward,” Battle said in a statement.

The ant situation came to a head in September 2019.

That is when the daughter of Eagles’ Nest patient Richard Marrable, a cancer patient, discovered him covered in more than 100 bites. Marrable died a few days later.

An investigation found staff had known since at least July 2019 about the infestation in multiple rooms, and at least five veterans had been bitten. Gnats were also a problem and a 2018 review of the facility by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General rated Eagles’ Nest two stars out of five.

ExploreUnprotected: Abuse, neglect in senior care homes raise questions about conditions, oversight during pandemic

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