Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eliminating the Dom for Veteras, is Michigan making a costly future mistake?

It is pretty clear by all the evidence coming from Michigan Department of Veteran affairs and the meetings of the Veterans Homes Board of managers that Michigan is seeking to eliminate the Dom unit from its homes.

The Olmstead project is a good indication of this. It seems Michigan has forgotten why the Veterans Home was started in the first place - because too many civil war vets were found living in squalor and poor houses.

I will not comment on the conditions at the Veterans home in the Upper Peninsula over by Marquette as I have never visited the place.  But at the Vets home in Grand Rapids, the Dom unit is slowly being eliminated.

Of the 3 housing buildings at the Vets home in Grand Rapids, the Rankin building is the oldest, built around 1947. The building has reached its maximum useful life, and although still used, the cost of maintaining it, and/or upgrading it, is very close to exceeding the amount to rebuild it.

Rankin is home to 1 nursing unit on the first floor, and the Dom unit on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Those floors have about 20, four man rooms (if each man has a standard 10x8 foot living area per man). That is about 160 or so Dom unit residents. But now the home has reduced the population of the Dom unit to give the guys more room to live in and only about 45 or so live there. And the cost to keep a veteran in the Dom unit is horrible. The home charges over $2,100 plus dollars each month for a veteran to live in Dom unit.  Now for just 80 square feet of privacy, that is very very costly.

And I believe that is why they are trying to eliminate the Dom. Michigan spends only 3,500 per capita on veterans, (and we are in dead last of all the states) and other states spend 5,000 per capita.
The cost of a vet to live in Dom is upwards of $2,100.00+ and SS Disability or VA disability will only pay about 1,200 a month. Thus the State ends up having to dish out the difference, and that is probably why they are trying to close the Dom. To once again, balance the state budget on the backs of Veterans.

The reason for the Dom was to give veterans a safe place to live when it started, and veterans helped maintain the grounds and their living quarters. Today a Vet doesn't do anything, other than take care of their own personal property. Contractors clean the units, the floors, the toilet rooms, and remove the trash. The capable vets are not allowed to even volunteer to help grounds maintenance because of what some say is a lame excuse of "liability".  So most have nothing to do but sit around and rot. The activities budget for the veterans in all units at the home has decreased dramatically since 2010.

Rather than allow some of these guys (and gals is at least 1 female vet in the Dom),  to help out, the vets have little to do. It is no wonder they feel like they are "doing time in prison". And it does not help, when it has been reported by several people that the top administrator Sara Dunne was over heard saying that most of the guys on Dom are lazy bums that would not lift a finger to help themselves, and are just looking for a free handout.  Well, many would volunteer to help Grounds, if they could. Why that FREE pool of workers is not being taken advantage of, is an question only the politicians can answer.

Most of the guys at Dom are there without any incomes, or with partial incomes that do not pay the full cost of their stay. Those without incomes are not even encouraged to apply for any kind of disability pension, either thru the VA being service related, or thru Social Security. Nor is there anyone at the home qualified to assist those veterans who DO want to get such a pension. The vets who do apply do so on their own with outside help.  And even if they get a pension doesn't mean that they will get enough to live on.

Social security disability pays 1287 a month for most people. There are not many areas in the USA where a person can survive on that, let alone live. And some of these guys need more than just a roof over their heads.

Now some folks may suggest they apply at a nursing home, or a retirement home. But the homes here have age requirements. 55 minimum unless they have a physical disability that requires nursing care. At 55 they can apply for "independent living" which is like getting their own apartment at the retirement home. They would have to feed themselves or pay an extra fee to eat in the homes cafeteria with the others. And if they did not have any cooking skills, they would go hungry quickly.

So where do these under aged veterans  and special needs veterans go to live?  Even if they get out into the community, they will need help. I know of several vets who get full Social Security disability 1277 a month, and they still get Federal Housing help (section 8). State help with their Medicaid premiums, Food stamps (very low amount) and still after paying basic bills, end up having to go to Food pantries to get thru the month.  That makes living difficult.

So where are these guys going to live? Who is going to help those that need more than just a roof over their heads?  There currently is no place other than the Dom Unit, for them. And the government is trying to shut that down.

This will be the costly mistake in the future, if the Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs continues its current course of trying to shut down the Dom Unit at the Veterans Home.

Update - Private comment edited to retain Privacy:

    " Many of the vets will help out if they are allowed to. I had several that helped me when I was there. It is so sad that NO ONE has taken the time to find out what the Dom unit Vets gifts are or where any of the other Vets at the Home talents are. .....thanks for all my Veteran helpers."


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