Saturday, September 20, 2014

Are State Officials Actively Silencing Veterans Rights to free speech?

Have the Deputy Director of Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency and Top Administrator at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans violated constitutional rights and civil rights of Veterans?

One of the biggest crimes being committed against Veterans at the Michigan Veterans Home in Grand Rapids, Mich, is the way the US Mail is being handled, while their legal rights are under attack and laws are ignored.  See article: Item Number 7, Mail Handling - Issues the Administration will not address. 

Recently this issue has come to light again, because it appears that Veterans rights are now actively obstructed by State officials;  the Deputy Director of the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency Mr. James Dunn and the Top Administrator at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, (one of the 2 veterans homes in Michigan), Sara Dunne.

I am now being told that it was James Dunn who said that it was HIS job to talk to legislators about the Veterans at the home and not the veterans' or their advocates'.  And that he tried to intimidate a visitor to the veterans' Home by telling that person what could or could not be talked about with legislators. 

That included not speaking to legislators about the Home or the perceived high number of deaths last year (of 430 residents, he said about 150 died, a little more than a third) and medical misdiagnoses at the Home.  This is a direct attempt to tell someone they can not exercise their freedom of speech. This act is a clear violation of the Constitution of both Michigan and the United States of America.

Home residents arranged a meeting with legislators this summer hoping to learn what was really happening at the VA, what their current benefits are, how to apply for transitional grants and training and things like that.  It has been widely discussed that Admin canceled that and one other meeting without prior notice to those who scheduled the meetings.  At one meeting, over 70 veterans and family members were gathering, waiting to hear answers Dunne and Dunn had for questions.  The "21 questions" were given to them prior to the meeting so they could be prepared with honest, factual data and the meeting could be amicable. 

Those gathered were told to leave by the very Home "advocate" Lino Pretto , (Member of the Board of Managers) who is supposed to represent them.  Given a chance to talk with the people he claims to represent, he told them to leave.    He claimed the meeting being was canceled by Dunn, who refused to meet with more than a handful of people.
James Dunn apparently failed to comprehend that he is accountable for 430 people, not a handful.  Lino Pretto demonstrated to many he cannot  wear the hat of advocate and Board member at the same time -- do we see a conflict of interests yet?  And Gary Davis, Social Services, who is also supposed to help them. Well, when told they needed the APR  room to accommodate vets with disabilities, Davis said in front of dozens of veterans "that does not matter!"   Oh, but it does matter because they needed that room to accommodate those vets with disabilities and that violates veteran rights under ADA. Canceling the meeting with their legislators violated the veterans' rights to free speech, assembly and representation.  Pretty serious stuff.  When will they learn, those things DO matter?
It is reported that Sara Dunne later stated they could not meet with legislators because  State laws prohibited "politicking" or "campaigning" on State Home property.  She was reportedly informed this was a meeting with reps, not a campaign session. She held fast to that meeting was not going to happen.  How shocking to many when she did not stop Terri Land from campaigning at the Veterans' yearly Carnival held on the Homes Property in July!!!  Land is reported to have handed out stickers and campaign material before she posed with veterans.  Then, without their consent, posted those photos to her social media sites, creating the false appearance veterans all supported her. 

Talk about an injustice!!!

Denying  the Veterans their rights but allowing her partner in politics to campaign at an event various veteran groups planned so those Veterans would have a fun, happy day and then using veterans to further their own political agenda was the equivalent as multiple slaps to faces of our fellow veterans.

And, on top of it all, up popped the mail problem yet again. Home residents have an ongoing problem with staff opening mail, money missing from cards, documents, checks -- even after they signed "DO NOT OPEN" forms that should prohibit staff from opening their private, US  protected mail.  But this time, the tampering was with the veterans' rights to be heard by the government via the election process.  Reports are that election related material that arrives for veterans via the USPS Mail is being withheld from the veterans. Some of the Veterans are complaining that their Absentee ballots are not being delivered to them. 

This must end, and it must end now. In all cases, the veterans voices are being quashed by State Employees, both Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency and the Veterans Homes Administration. Men who put their lives on the line for this State and Country should not have one of our most basic and cherished rights violated by tyrannical state employees in offices of public trust.

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