Monday, July 28, 2014

Vets Home Top Administrator Obstructing Veterans access to Congressional Representatives?

Once again, we have to report about Sara Dunne and this twisted, warped, and outright wrong idea she has about veterans and the Congress's, both US and State.

This past weekend, both Angry and I went to a Meet and Greet at a local retirement home, whose members hosted this event in their community room.

Guest of Honor was Democrat Governor candidate Mark Schauer who spoke to us about his vision of Michigan and its future.

At this meeting one of several Veterans Advocates who attended the meeting mentioned to Angry about a recent conversation she had with Sara Dunne. I inquired and the 3 of us ended up talking about it after Mark Schauer had to leave for another meeting.

Seems Sara Dunne, the top administrator at the Michigan Veterans Home(?!) in Grand Rapids, Mich told her that it was Saras' job to talk to the Congress people not individual veterans. And that she (Sara)  would not tolerate the veterans (members of the home) saying bad things about the home or the administration of the home to any member of Congress.

This is an out right violation of the veterans rights to speak to their duly elected representatives. This out right obstruction of their Constitutionally secured rights.

And while some people may think that this is just a rumor, I remind every one that Michigan State Congresswoman Winnie Brinks is the House of Representatives, Representative for this district which includes the veterans home; and she was escorted off the property for talking to veterans privately without staff approval. That action is well documented.

Since when does a member of congress need any ones permission to talk to anyone in his/her district, unless that person is in JAIL or PRISON?   Or is the Grand Rapids (home) for Veterans really the Grand Rapids Prison for Veterans?

There are those who think the Administration targeted Veteran members who started the Non Profit group Veterans for Justice for removal from the home. This non profit group has had several of its members kicked out of the home for various excuses by the administration. Most of the members believe they were kicked out for daring to stand up and voice their opinion and criticism of the Administration at the home. 

So to hear this latest bit of news, is not surprising.

What is surprising is that no one has found a good Constitutional lawyer willing to go after the administration yet. But I believe that day is coming sooner than they think.

At one point in time this blog reported a rumor about a secret meeting held at the home, where various people were told that a select small group of individuals where out there bad mouthing the home and trying to destroy its reputation.

I would like to update you on that. It is not a small group, now it is several groups and 3 are very very big groups with over 20 people who are reporting and spreading the news about the abuses and the ineffective staff and poor administrating going on at the home. And they are also telling folks that our Veterans deserve better. 

The Administration is doing it to itself. We are only trying to report what really happened, in other words, the facts. 

Terry Land, ex Sec of State, shows up for Photo Op at Veterans Home Carnival.

Former Michigan Secretary of State Terry Land appeared at the recent Veterans home Carnival this past Saturday 26 July 2014. Terry is running for the United States Senate seat being vacated by long time Democrat Carl Levin.

While Terry had photos taken, not many were with veterans of the home.

Terry served as secretary of the state (the Dept of Motor vehicles) from 2002 to 2010, 8 years, or 2 terms the maximum the state allows under term limits.

She also served as Kent County Clerk (4th largest county in Michigan) from 1992 to 2000.

Why she didn't get more photos with member veterans, is hard to say.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

You think its bad at the Veterans home try the outside world and its problems.

Hey Guys, post this on the blog for me. Thanks, Greg.

When I came to the Grand Rapids home for Veterans, I didn't even know that it existed, nor that it had been there for many years, even though I had lived in and around Grand Rapids for most of my life.

I came just after Sara Dunne took over as temporary administer, being promoted from what I was told was the person in charge of the kitchens.

We had bingo games almost every night, and lots of activities. But in 2010 the economy was winding down from the crash of 2008. And at the time Michigan was getting little if any Federal money for its veterans.

Some people blamed the dwindling activities on the administration. Saying they were driving away people and volunteers. The shake up of the Clothing room was used as an example as the folks running it were replaced with another group. Then they moved the room to another part of the building and the area for clothing was cut by 2/3rds. The quantity and quality of clothing was reduced.  And with the donations being made from the home to the "in the image" store, many thought that Donations that were meant for veterans were being given away and the vets not getting what they needed. The fact was, the excess and old inventory that was not being rotated, is what was being given to "in the image" to make room for new donations and stuff needed by the veterans. Why warehouse stuff you are not using, or have excessive amounts of, that only a few people need?

The fact is that the money just ran out, both from the state, and well, the feds just weren't giving us much of anything.

Then Jason Allen and the others of the Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs went after the federal money and started getting us qualified. The money started coming in.. And it is still coming in.

Proof of this are the recent budget expenditures that are earmarked for the veterans home. 45 million dollars for upkeep and maintenance, special funds to replace the broken chiller for the AC system for the 2 main nursing buildings.

And that is not the only money being spent.

Since I left the home, I have been working with the Hud-Vash outreach clinic located on Century Avenue. We meet there every Friday for a lunch and a network get together. People from different groups who help veterans come in and talk to us.  And this last week there were no speakers. However, something came to light that echo'ed what I had heard at the veterans home. "They are making millions off of us, while we get little or nothing" and  "people using veterans to make money instead of helping them". 

There are a lot of groups out there claiming to be helping veterans. Homeless vets, Vets with drinking problems, drug problems, Job problems.. And each group has its own criteria to qualify for its help.  Groups that help veterans with Food. There is a group that runs a food pantry only for veterans and its located downstairs from the Outreach office in the same building. This same group also helps veterans with expenditures, such as car repairs or rent deposits, or money for needed furniture, or other things not covered by other means.  The amount is limited to 250 dollars and they write a check specifically to a business, you do not get cash. And you can only use them once every 6 months for this.   And a lot of guys need it..

West Michigan Department of Veterans affairs, located in the Federal building at 50 Ionia, requires veterans to be of a verified war period. Such as Vietnam, or Desert Storm, or Grenada.  Just because you are an honorable discharged veteran does not necessarily get you qualified for help from them; and many of us believe that is wrong.

Many vets living on the outside of the Home, are surviving on below cost of living budgets. Social Security Disability for instance, pays on average, about 1266 a month. Hud Vash pays 2/5ths of a persons rent up to a specified amount. After basic utilities such as heat, water, electric, and phone, a veteran can end up with just 300 left for food and other misc expenses such as laundry, and car expenses. And if you lived at the Home, and were in the Dom unit, the Dom unit costs started at 2100 a month per person and went up depending on that veterans medical needs. Yet veterans cannot get that same amount from the VA or Social Security.. BIG difference in the amount being spent.

Veterans getting full VA pension get even less than the Social Security 1266 per month, I am told.

And many of them find that they cannot get the kind of help they need when they need it, even when there are dozens of groups out there that are supposedly helping veterans.  Carl was one like me who needed help with car repairs, since he has his daughter with him. He could not generate enough money to get the car fixed, so it sits in a parking lot unused. Its costing him money for plates and monthly insurance (which in Michigan is outrageous) for a vehicle he cannot even use. It is going to take him 3 months to save enough money to get the repairs done, that once completed will give him a safe and reliable car to use even with outside groups helping him.

Other vets needed down payments and first months rent to move into a new Hud-Vash approved apartment. But because they are peace time vets, and not involved in any conflict  they cannot get the financial help they need to get over "the hump" as we are now calling it.

A big factor that came to light is that NO one in government is coordinating the many different groups that are out there. And many vets don't even know that they exist until they (both vets and groups) come to one of the outreach meetings, or they hear about the group from the grape vine.

Some of the guys even complained about the Salvation Army's Booth family services group that supposedly helps veterans get jobs. They say its ineffective.

And that old Herkner hotel that got renovated into temporary housing? 3 of the guys say there is a time limit to be there. Well what if you need longer? Michigan's economy still is in the dumps. 8.9 percent unemployment (official numbers). Some say the real numbers are double that. So if it takes you longer to get a job that pays enough to get you on your feet, what happens when their time is up at the Herkner? They end up on the street homeless again and the cycle starts all over from scratch.

Add the VA problems to the mix, and you have a real mess.  And many of the vets going to the outreach meetings are older vets. The newer guys from the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations, have their own special problems and needs that are not being met.

Yeah, I have my own apartment. It is better than the 8x10 area I had in Rankin 3, the Dom unit. And I choose what meals I eat, (Sloppy Joes without BEANS amongst other things,) and I can sit in my living room and watch TV, or practice my guitar. But financially I struggle every day. And at the end of the month, I usually run out of food, and have to go to a pantry to get me thru that last week. And I have to pay for my own clothing which can be expensive even for the basic things. Also food prices are going up very quickly reducing the amount I can get for my 300-400 a month budget.  And the VA delays are a constant battle with me. 

At the home you have 3 hots and a cot, and medical. That may not seem like a lot, but when you don't have to worry about that stuff,  it takes a lot of stress off of your mind. Maybe you guys at the home don't have it so bad?  Yes there is room for improvement and its desperately needed. I suggest you forget the administration and take your concerns to the board of managers directly.

Either way, those problems are a lot easier to deal with than what we have in the outside world.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What now, is the purpose of having a Dorm Unit at the Veterans home?

I just got back from a luncheon that was held at the Veterans Outreach Clinic over on Century Avenue. Had a great time there, networking with other veterans and advocates of veterans issues.

One topic came to the table and it took me by surprise, and I ended up being one of the speakers at todays lunch.

One of the guys told me that he recently applied to be in the Dorm unit. But that Gary Davis told him that he had to have 2 things to be accepted: 1st was a disability and 2nd was an income.

What happened to helping homeless veterans? At one time the Dom units purpose was to help get vets off the street, and give them a "time out" where they could get their lives together and slowly work their way back into society. That is why the Dom was sometimes called the "transitory" unit. I.E. people came and people went.

And during that time their cost of care was provided for, in part by the Federal VA, and in part by the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund. Apparently this is no longer the case.

So if the Vets home is not going to help homeless veterans, why have it? Or are they going to turn it into another nursing unit?

Last I heard they only had one part time nurse, Kathy, aka the prison nurse who has on several occasions called the veterans there, "inmates".

Since the Dom unit has gone from 200 vets, down to less than 50, why even have it? Or is the problem the simple fact that they haven't found enough reasons to kick out the remaining 50 like they did to so many other vets, instead of getting them the help they needed?

A few former members of the Dom were present, as well as one former member of Rankin 1, the nursing unit housed in the same building as the Dom unit which was on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Rankin building.

They all said that the home overcharged for services rendered, and took all their money, making it impossible for them to transition back to the community.

Dan claimed that they took over 4million dollars from him, for being in Rankin 1, and that is why he left.

Now personally I doubt Dan ever had 4 million, and that the home took that much from him, but, I do not doubt they did take what he had.   The basic fee for being in Dom unit is 2100 a month, and the price goes up from there. Some guys in Nursing units over in McKliesh and Mann buildings have told me they get charged 5 to 7 thousand dollars each month for their care.

Add a conservator/guardian to the mix and a veteran can be assured all of his assets will be taken from him before he passes on.

So why have a Dorm unit, if its no longer being used to help homeless veterans which is why the home was BUILT in the first place after the civil war? And why it has continued to this day.

Any one know?

Update: Since the Michigan Veterans Trust fund was used to pay for veterans who were homeless and without incomes, and since the home is no longer taking vets in to the Dorm Unit who do not have an income, therefore not drawing on the Michigan Veterans Trust fund,   what is happening to that Michigan Veterans Trust fund money? Is it being diverted for other things, as is the trademark of the Rick Snider administration ( and the GR Home for veterans administration)?