Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Veterans Town Hall Meeting of 21 April 2014 Held at Neal Fonger VFW #179, Grandville.

On April 21st, 2014, a Veterans town hall meeting was held at the Grandville Michigan, Neal Fonger VFW post.

In attendance were Michigan State Representatives Peter McGreggor, and Rob VerHeuln, and Senior advisor to the Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs Jason Allen.

All talked for about 20 min's each.

About 40 to 50 people attended the meeting. Most were over aged 60.

The Goal of Michigan's department of veteran affairs is to put Michigan in the top 10 of the states. We were 53 out of 53 with Guam, Puerto Rico and WDC beating us.

That was because 4 years ago, we did not qualify for ANY federal funding. The state has progressively became qualified and are becoming more qualified at an accelerated rate as time goes on, giving us more access to federal funds to help our veterans.

There are about 10 to 15,000 veterans being discharged per year right now. The current veterans are nothing like past veterans. And the state is trying to anticipate their needs.

Many benefits however, still depend on a veteran having an official "war time" status on their dd214, such as operation Desert shield, Desert storm, or the like.

Ed opinion: While the Cold war vets are recognized by the Federal VA as a group, they are not being given any special help in time of need.  This must change. Since 1973 we have been a 100 percent volunteer military. The military after 1973 is not like the Viet Nam era Military. Guys in the Cold war were put into situations that were as close to combat situations as you could get without being in the war, yet they do not get credit for what they did. I refer to Lebanon and the Marines Barracks Bombing in 83, and the Navy ships doing picket duty off shore to support them. And Navy ships doing picket duty in the Persian Gulf keeping an eye on the Iran/Iraq war as just 2 examples. Many were just 2 miles from the declared war zone. I also include the US Marines doing duty in Lebanon at that time.   

Under President Reagan and his policy of Gunboat diplomacy many of these veterans were in a state of semi danger and they should get credit for it just as if they were in a war zone. 
These people have little or no extra help or benefits once the leave service, and later in life become disabled on a limited income and need help with car repairs or moving expenses or emergency funding for a family issue. There is a huge gap here that needs attention.

End Ed opinion.

There are about 660,000 veterans in Michigan, with Michigan holding the 11th largest veteran population of the 50 states and 3 federal districts (Guam, Puerto Rico, and WDC).

In Kent County, (Grand Rapids, Mich) 1/3rd of the veterans are Viet Nam veterans.

And last but not least, the Veterans Home information.

As some of you know, many changes have been taking place at the Michigan veterans home in Grand Rapids, Mich for the last 4 years. Now we know why.  First, a large funding appropriation has been given to the home for needed maintenance and replacement of old and outdated AC systems parts.

The Home is based on the World War 1 model of one veterans home, and is now being changed to the more modern model of having several smaller homes located thru out the State. The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans once housed up to 750 veterans. That maximum number is now about 430, with the Dorm unit being reduced from 150 to 50, in part because the new veterans would not tolerate being stacked 4 guys to a room with only 72 sq feet of private space as we have mentioned in previous posts on this blog.

Also, family members of veterans who are residents here from the other side of the state have a 2 to 4 hour drive to come visit their veterans and that reduces visitations. So the idea is to build 2 more smaller veteran home facilities in Michigan. One on the east side of the state near Detroit and one in North Central part of the state, perhaps up by Mt. Pleasant or near the Grayling reserve base.

This will allow the veterans to be closer to families and will encourage visitations by family members. Dom unit people who have pensions or disability income will be encouraged to return to community, and use the veteran outreach services.  This is why the GR Vets home Dom unit has reduced its number of resident veterans.

Also discussed was what to do with the old VA clinic on Coit street once the clinic moves to its new location over by Metro Hospital. A suggestion was to covert it to the Dom unit, so that the Rankin building which was built in the 1940's can be torn down and a more modern building built, with rooms for the Dom that are more apartment like, as that is how all the veterans administration would like to see all the rooms at the home become, as it makes the home seem more like a home.

So that is what the meeting was about and the 3 guests (State Congressmen McGreggor, VerHeulen and Senior Adviser Allen) said they would like to hold more such meetings thru out the area, with other state representatives coming to the meetings too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thievery by staff, of members personal items must stop.

Been awhile since we posted last. We have been busy with our own projects and have not had a chance to get over to the home to visit with the guys, but later this month I will be going to the clinic, and after that I will be stopping in for a visit.

For the last few weeks, I have been getting reports of staff members taking personal property of veterans. What they do with it, I have no idea.. But if a staff member takes a veterans property, the veteran should inform Gary Davis, and Administrator Sara Dunn, and inform both of them they will file a criminal complaint with the local police authorities if the property is not returned.

Thievery by staff members must NOT be tolerated by any one. If a veteran has something that is not allowed to be in their possession by the Homes rules, the Home has already established procedures for the staff to follow, which includes informing the veteran and giving the veteran a chance to remove said property. Confiscation should only happen after administrative remedies have been exhausted, or when the safety of the veteran, other veterans, or the staff, are in imminent danger.

The latest of the 5 complaints I have heard, is a staff member went into a room where only one veteran was, and took his zippo lighters.

I believe there is a rule about having flammable accelerants on the property, but I know several guys in Dom unit, kept their zippo lighter fluid locked up in their personal drawers. I believe the same would apply to the nursing units.

Even if the lighters were out in the open, the staff should have notified the veteran to put them away in his personal drawer, and not have taken them.  Such actions upset the veterans making them uncooperative and irritated. That is not good for anyone.

To take a veterans property and not return it to the veteran is thievery. And the veteran should stand his/her ground and demand prosecution for doing so if the property is not returned.