Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Changes could be in store for Michigan’s veterans’ services. 

A House and Senate joint committee heard testimony Monday about a package of bills that would create a new Michigan Veterans’ Facility Authority. The Authority would oversee new veteran facilities, and eventually, lawmakers hope, the entire Michigan Veteran Health System would go under the umbrella of the authority.

The legislation comes after an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last February revealed persistent issues like staffing shortages and not following through on abuse complaints.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A veteran’s home in Marquette says it’s already fixed problems found by the state Auditor General. After a four-month review, the auditor raised concerns about the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans’ control over medications and its background checks of volunteers.

Officials with the home say they’d started fixing the issues before the auditors visited, and the issues had to be raised because they were previously not in compliance.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A joint state House committee could begin hearings as soon as this week on a scathing audit of a state-run veterans’ home.

Among other things, the report found the Grand Rapids facility was understaffed, and that workers mishandled abuse and neglect complaints and failed to conduct required safety checks.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has replaced the director of Michigan's veterans’ affairs agency after an audit uncovered problems at a state-run nursing home for veterans.

Jeff Barnes, who led the agency for three years, resigned Friday. State officials said Barnes didn’t want to be a distraction as efforts were made to resolve the issues. Barnes, a former Army officer, previously was the governor's deputy chief of staff and his former campaign manager.

Michigan owes severance pay to eligible nursing aides who were laid off from a state-run home for veterans.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two state-run long-term care facilities for veterans in Michigan. More than 400 veterans are housed there.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This Veterans Day, Michigan has the dubious distinction of having its military veterans among those receiving the least government benefits of any in the 50 states.

Michigan’s more than 650 thousand veterans get about $3,400 on average in benefits compared with a national average of nearly five thousand dollars a year.   

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 4p.m.

The home’s administrator Sara Dunne says the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs just completed an annual inspection of the home in April. “They will not leave the homes if they feel there’s sub-standard being provided,” Dunne said.

There is no abuse and neglect going on at the home,” Dunne said, “There’s very strong language of what abuse and neglect is in long term care and there have been no instances of that at all.”

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Veterans' homes in Michigan could see an increase of about $1.7 million in next year's state budget.

Jeff Barnes is the director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs agency.

"The state is currently ill equipped to deal with some of the metal health challenges that some of our veterans face," Barnes said. "This is an investment that we feel is good for the members of the homes but it is also starts to helps us deal with some of the future care concerns that we have."

The extra funds could also help "increase the number of skilled nursing that we have to also address some of the issues we have with mental health and psychiatric care in the homes and then put some additional controls in place to make sure we are doing our do diligence with pharmaceutical controls" says Barnes.

The budget is expected to see a vote in the legislature in the coming weeks.

-Lindsay Hall, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Revamping vets' services

Apr 7, 2013

Michigan's new Veterans Affairs Agency director says the state needs to do a better job connecting its nearly 700,000 veterans to services.

This week nearly 150 nursing assistants are getting laid off at a state-run home for veterans.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two state-run hospitals for veterans in Michigan. More than 700 veterans are housed there.

“It’s a continuation of a process that we started back in October 2011,” said Suzanne Thelen, Public Information Officer for Michigan’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to save money by privatizing nursing assistants at a state-run home for veterans is legal. The state’s Court of Appeals issued the decision Friday.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two state-run hospitals for vets in Michigan. More than 700 are housed there.

Governor Rick Snyder privatized about 170 nursing assistants at the home last year to save around $4 million.