Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

Dawn Brys got an early taste of the crisis unfolding at the largest Veterans Affairs hospital in the Southeast.

The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.

"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.

Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.

The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.

The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.

The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees and social security recipients will see a 1.6% increase in their monthly checks for 2020.

The annual Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) is smaller than the 2.8% increase from last year but in line with the historical increases seen over the last ten years. Each year military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities, VA Compensation and Pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Read More Show Less
(Department of Veterans Affairs photo)

The Department of Veterans Affairs refunded $400 million dollars to vets due to mistaken home loan funding fees, the VA announced on Tuesday.

The refunds were the result of a "multi-year internal review of millions of VA-backed home loans spanning almost two decades," the department said in a statement.

Read More Show Less
Four gamers concentrate as they battle it out during a "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" tournament held on the GameTruck at the Clear Creek Post Exchange, Nov. 4, 2013. These were the last four competitors of the midnight release of "Call of Duty: Ghosts." (U.S. Army / Sgt. Cody Barber)

Love video games but hate paying for them? If you're a U.S. service member, a veteran, or a family member of one, then a new program has just the thing for you.

Read More Show Less
Cortez Hill, a pharmacy technician assigned to the 99th Medical Support Squadron, looks at the label of medication while working in the Satellite Pharmacy at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 19, 2019. (U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Editor's note: This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Prescription drug costs for Tricare users are set to rise Jan. 1, some by as much as 42%.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, a 90-day supply of generic drugs received through the program's Express Scripts mail-order pharmacy will increase from $7 to $10. Co-pays on brand-name drugs received through the mail will go from $24 to $29; the price rises from $53 to $60 for non-formulary drugs.

Read More Show Less
The Marine Corps Exchange at Quantico (Photo: Valerie OBerry)

If you're a veteran with a VA service-connected disability rating, a former prisoner of war, or a Purple Heart recipient, the exchange, recreation facilities, and commissary on base will be opening their doors to you starting in 2020.

In what's being billed as the largest expansion of new shoppers in the military commissary system in 65 years, veterans will be allowed back into many of the same retail outlets they had access to while in uniform starting on Jan. 1, 2020, thanks to a measure put in to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

Read More Show Less