Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Veterans of Michigan Beware: Michigan has turned its back on veterans at the Grand Rapids Home for veterans.

I don't what is going on at the veterans home, but one thing is clear: the Veterans home is no longer for the veterans.

Dorm unit guys are being systematically discharged for stupid reasons and without due process.
Nursing unit guys are being over drugged, and their money being stolen from them via the guardian laws.

Discharged guys get their reputations bashed and slandered by staff.

And although many are applying for admittance, few are being granted access.

Just about every thing that has made living at the home barable for the veterans has been taken away from them.

Moral at the home is at an all time low.

And this is all, standard operation procedures for the home now, because no one has held them accountable.

Every man in the Dorm unit, and the 3 women, 1 of whom is a veteran herself, are now in danger of being discharged with no place to go. Due to rule changes, even though the home classifies them as homeless veterans, the state says they are not, and do not qualify for the HUD VASH  (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing,) program until after they are discharged.

Basically this means they are thrown to the street, before HUD will help them.  Instead of a smooth transition from being a homeless veteran at the home, to a home of their own, they now have to face the trama of being homeless, some without any income, and without any resources for survival.

Apparently someone has forgotten how hard it is for a homeless person to get back on their feet.
First, they need a valid address - Homeless people have no address! Then they need a phone contact number, so they can be reached when someone wants to offer them a job. And they need reliable transportation - you cannot rely on the city bus system. And they need an income. Social security Supplemental income,  Social Security Disability income, Welfare cash assistance; something that helps you pay your rent or living costs.

Then you need to find a job that pays enough for you to pay your bills, or supplements what government gives you thru one of the above programs.  And getting those programs running takes time.

I am told it can take 2 to 6 weeks for a veteran to find, qualify for, and be approved for an apartment under the HUD VASH program. And even then they are the ones who pay the deposit and first months rent - hard to do with no income.

Veterans at the Grand Rapids Home for veterans, are not being told as to what is happening to them, or why so many are being tossed out. Administration claims many are disciplinary in nature, but when one sees the real facts of each case, one finds out the real reason is because the home does not want to deal with the issues the veteran is having. Or the home will claim that it is not set up to help veterans with those kinds of issues, therefore the veteran has to leave to find help else where.

Many have no where else to go, as they have been at the home for several years and in that time have lost every thing they own. In fact, one of the criteria of being a member in the Dorm unit, is you have no assets and little if any income.

Over the last 5 years, the Dorm unit has housed many veterans who have lost everything they ever worked for, due to their loosing their jobs because of NAFTA and the down turn of the states economy. And just as many have been in the Dorm unit who were there because of alcoholism.

Originally the Veterans home was setup to give Civil war Veterans who were poor and broke, a place to live. This is what the Dorm unit was today. A place for poor veterans with nothing, to have a place to live, and to get their lives back under control and to eventually move out of the home.

But the home does NOTHING to help these guys return to society, instead the home now uses them to make money for the state. They started charging them exorbitant rates for their room and board and healthcare. On average they charge a dorm unit veteran 2100 dollars a month for Cost of Care. The veteran gets 56-50 square feet of bed space, no privacy as the room is 2 to 4 men to a room. These 4 men will share 1 toilet and 2 sinks in the room, and 50 or so on each of the 2 floors of the Rankin building will share 2 normal showers, 1 handicap shower, and 1 bathtub/shower per floor.
All other spaces are public and community spaces.

Give those guys 2100 to live on on the outside, and they can get a 2 bedroom apartment, make a car payment, pay for all utilities, and help pay for their medical care at the VA clinic, and live quite comfortably. Instead, many end up on Social security disability which after deductions leaves them living on less than 1000 dollars a month - below the nations poverty level.

And this doesn't even being to address the atrocities of the nursing units. Some of which charge guys up to 7,900.00 a month to be there. Add to the fact that many have guardians appointed to them, and you have a recipe for theft on a grand scale.  

This is why so many veterans at the home wonder why congress is not investigating this place, and why they are so frustrated that nothing is being done to help them.

It clearly is not a HOME for veterans. 

Michigan, a state with a population of 9.8 million people, cannot, or will not provide a proper level of living for just 500 or less, of its wounded warriors. 

God forgive us.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Members of Veterans home want to talk to Federal officals about veterans home.

Harassment of veterans at the veterans home is hitting a new time high. Recently State Representative Winnie Brinks went to the home to talk to one of the guys, and was escorted off the property, and the next day called for an investigation of the home.

One of the comments made by Representative Brinks was she was concerned over the fact that the guys were extremely worried about being seen with any official.

Well the fact is the guys live in fear of talking to any one, if the staff is present. All the guys live in fear of repercussions for doing so, and history of the home shows that people that speak up, get targeted and eventually get kicked out of the home. Just for exercising their 1st amendment rights.

The fact is many of these veterans want to talk to federal officials about what is happening at the home and about the abuses by the staff members and administration. And to be able to do so without harassment of the staff for doing so.

Top Administrator again shows double standard to veterans at Veterans home.

Saturday 27 July 2013, the veterans home held its yearly carnival for the veterans and their families over in the bandstand area, which is located between the VA clinic and the Home.

Attending the event as a guest of one of the veterans was Greg M, who last year was dishonorably discharged from the home after he blew his cork, when the home threatened to steal his car, (have it towed off the property) when it was parked in a proper area.  Greg had been going back to the home for the last 3 months, visiting veterans. He talked with security, and head of security Gerald, and not one told him to leave.

But when Top administrator Sara Dunn saw him at the carnival, she told Gary Davis to tell him that he was now supposed to be on the property. This after she denied him due process of any kind on his case. And she did not have the guts to tell Greg himself.  Sara expects others to follow the rules, but not herself.

When Greg went thru the start point with his Veteran friend, and it was Gary Davis who confronted Greg. Greg told Gary, that he was not on the security's list of "do not allow on property". And that the had been coming to the home for 4 months with no problem.  He also told Gary, that if they had a problem with him being there as a guest,  to tell him to leave and he would go peacefully. Gary did not tell him to leave.

This is the kind of harassment veterans have to put up with by this administration.  This on top of the fact that Sara Dunn again failed to grant the veteran his due process, when Greg gave her his 2nd appeal to the board of managers on the 6th of June. She did not notify him of the July board meeting, where Greg was to present his 2nd appeal.

He will be at the next board of managers meeting. What happens after that, will depend on what the board does. However, it is known that Greg has lawyers ready to take this to the next level if necessary.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Returning veteran refused admittance to veterans home due to past advocacy of veterans rights.

What is the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans becoming? Is it a home for veterans or is it something else?  It used to house over 750 men and women, but lately the numbers are more like 450 or less.

Nursing units have about 350 with another 58 in Dorm unit.  People being allowed admission are dwindling while applications are increasing.

And there is now clear evidence of  prejudice in selecting people who are to be given admittance. Of the 450 members or so, only about 15 are women, and less than 5 are veterans. Only one Black female veteran is in Dorm unit, the other 2 women are elderly ladies that were wives of veterans. and I believe this 1 female is also the only black female veteran in the entire facility.  There are a number of black men veterans, but I am told they too were refused admittance, up until about 1987.

When I got to the home in the fall of 2010, there were 3 Native Americans in the dorm unit. Now there are none and one is trying to return, but being given a hard time. This may be due to who he is, and what he did while he was there.

Let me introduce you to George Merrit. A native American who was the Dorm unit Council president for over 1 and half years, and an advocate for the rights of the veterans. He helped many veterans improve their lives, by going back to school. Many left the home and continued their lives. Still others were returned to family member care. All are better off now than at the home.

George spent many an hour in front of the then ACTING head administrator Sara Dunn, arguing for veterans rights. At the time Sara Dunn was not officially the states chosen director for the home but was a temporary administer after the last one, Frank Sanarski retired due to medical issues. Later the state gave her the top position and gave her the job permanently.

George left the home quite suddenly. Not because he got kicked out, but because he was given a job opportunity outside the home that he could not refuse. So he left.

Recently the job situation radicaly changed. The contractor George was working for as a subcontractor left George with no contract, no work, and no money. So George had no place left to go but back to the Grand Rapids home for veterans dorm unit.

He has been applying all week long, and is getting the run around. Today he was told that a new admittance guideline set of rules were imposed by some government level, that says that returning people have to be in worse condition than when they left.  Yet no veteran was informed of this new requirement, nor was George told this when he started the admittance process on Monday.

George spent his last gas in his car to get to the home, and for the last 3 days has depended upon other people to give him a place to sleep, and to feed him.  The man has nothing, yet the home will not admit him. Isn't that what the Dorm unit exists for?

George is a witness to many of the items talked about in this blog, and he has evidence and experience and a history of success fighting for veterans rights against this administration, maybe that's why they do not want to admit him.

George says he wants to return to have a place to sleep, and to learn how to play guitar, (via the Guitars for Vets class, held Wednesdays in the APR room). He does not want to return to the politics of the home and will not be getting involved in other peoples cases. And as soon as he finds work again, he would be leaving again.

This coming weekend is the summer carnival held for the benefit of the veterans at the home. And Sara Dunn has been on vacation or missing from her office all week. Gary Davis apparently has been dragging his heals, when it comes to getting approval for George to return to the home.

Apparently there are currently only 58 people in Dorm unit - half of the available space, if you keep it to 4 man room. As such the home should be laying off some of its Dorm unit support staff, as they are no longer needed. May be if they are afraid if they let George in, he will force that issue and the result will be staff members laid off who are about to retire.

Either way, the question of why they are refusing this man access, when it is clear they have room, and really have no proper reason to say no to his admittance, needs to be answered.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stealing the veterans Bingo money, how pathetic.

From ok, to bad, to worse; That is the typical story of what has happened to every activity that made the lives of the Veterans who live at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, lives a little nicer.

First there were many bingo's held in the APR room, (all purpose room) located in the main hallway between the McLeish building and Rankin buildings.  They almost had a bingo every day of the week. Some of the groups hosting the bingo, would bring in treats. Pizza and Pop, Chips and cookies, coffee and donuts. Fruits such as banana's and apples, and such, or little treat bags with various items. All appreciated by the veterans. 

 But the home put a stop to that. No more treats.

The people hosting the bingo sometimes would pay a cash prize of 25 cents to 5 dollars for a bingo, depending on which organization was hosting it and how they were. Some bingo games you could call bingo several  times, for a quarter each,  others 1 bingo per card for 50 cents to 5 dollars, again depending on who was hosting the bingo.

Then they started handing out envelopes with 1 dollar in each one, as a prize. What a waste of envelopes. Why they did this, I have no idea. It just doesn't make sense to me. But for months this is what they did at many of the bingo's.

Now I am told, they no longer get the envelope. Instead winners get their names taken down on a sheet of paper, and then they have to wait a day or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, or 6 or 7 or whenever, to get the money out of their bank account.

I am also told that recently this happened at a White Caps sponsored bingo, and several members are STILL waiting for their money (winnings) to be deposited into their accounts. 

That is right. if a person wins a bingo and wins 1 dollar, That dollar is deposited into the members bank account. Now it can take 1 to 5 days for the administration to do the paperwork, so that the member can get his/her dollar out of the bank so that they can go get a coke or a 7-up or for what ever reason they want to use it.

As a reminder, the member bank is NOT a  real bank. It is  operated by the Veterans Home administration, and is only open 2 hours a day, M-F. So if a member wins a dollar on friday afternoon, it will be monday before they can go and collect their money.  


Apparently Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Administration doesn't want any of the veterans to have any cash in their hands. Not even enough to buy a bottle of Coke a cola.. Oh, the price went up. It is now  $1.50 in Kozy Corners for a 20 ounce plastic bottle.

I wonder what the real reason is for not allowing the groups who are hosting the bingo's the ability to pay cash for bingo's.  Will the money that is supposed to be deposited, end up missing just like the Christmas funds for Rankin Dorm unit did?

Word of Thanks for real food donations.

The Guys at the Veterans home, have asked me to publish their word of thanks to the following organizations:

   Saint James Lutheran Church  for putting on a picnic on or about the 12th of July.

   Branns Steak House; once again  Branns came in and gave the guys and gals a nice cook out, on the 11th.

Thanks to both for caring for our veterans.

I may have the dates wrong, but they are close and these groups did a great job! I am sure that the veterans appreciate your hard work and your donation as its the only decent food they get.