Sunday, March 20, 2016

Advocate speaks out against American Legion Spokesman Mark Sutton

I am so outraged over comments the American Legion Representative Mark Sutton made that I took a couple days to cool down before replying. 

I do encourage you to report Mr. Sutton's inexcusable behavior to his superiors. And, if he did speak for the American Legion as he claimed, AL is totally out of touch with the reality of the situation at the Home.  To end three weeks of intense and horrifying testimony with comments implying the situations at the Home are not as bad as reported, was the same as saying every witness before him was a liar.  That is untrue and unacceptable.  In reality, he is the one who was disconnected to reality. 

Residents of the Home and I who were present at all the hearings are beyond angered and livid over inappropriate, unsubstantiated, inaccurate comments attributed to the American Legion Rep. Mr. Sutton.   When he implied he spoke for residents he has never met, he seriously outraged the Home residents who were present.  Some said they had no clue who he was, he did not routinely visit any of them and he had no right acting like he was speaking for them when he rambled off a list of things he wanted. 

As one resident told me on the way back to GR, "If Sutton's statements do represent the position of the American Legion, the AL is so grossly out of touch with the real happenings at the GR Home for Veterans they should be ashamed of themselves.
Maybe they should stick to parades and ceremonial events...leave the real issues to people who know the facts and give a damned about us and our fellow veterans."

It was Mr. Sutton who made uneducated statements, threw out false numbers (like $200,000 needed for a position that has not been approved nor has a cost been determined) and supported the very Board of Managers which is highly culpable in this situation.  He appeared to the residents and I to be completely unaware of the documented abuses and rights to speech, assembly and representation stripped from the residents by the very Board of Managers he painted as victims of unjust dislike by a few disgruntle residents.  The fact is well known that those very same BOM members he defended stopped the residents from meetings they planned with their own legislators -- even legislators testified to that point.  BOM denied veterans their rights to free speech, assembly and representation - that is what these hearings were about. 

There is such lack of communication between BOM members that had Mr. Sutton attended all BOM meetings, he would have known how heated the meeting became when BOM members from up North argued with those in GR for failing to communicate, especially important issues like licensing and closing of the Cafeteria.  

They were angered when they only learned of major issues from reporters and when they learned the cafeteria was not closed only for an inexpensive license.  It was actually closed because rodents had overrun the kitchen and cafeteria, a bug zapper had been placed directly above the food prep area and "dirty water" from sewer lines were backed up into the food prep areas, need major repairs and changes....and on and on. It was so bad National Guard had to bring in food. BOM from the North were outraged that GR Admin would not even answer basic accounting questions -- and now millions of dollars and property are missing on their shift.    Yet, to listen to Mr. Sutton, everything is fine.

Having worked daily for months with a team (residents, volunteers, caregivers, family members, friends, advocates...) who met with dozens and dozens and dozens of residents, LISTENED to resident stories and concerns, documented then verified facts, abuses and issues, we are beyond appalled by Mr. Sutton's inaccurate, misleading statements. These hearings were not a time to present guesses and unverified information, as Mr. Sutton did repeatedly. Or provide a list of things the residents need without talking with more of them. The rest of us stuck with facts and verified information hearings are for truth. We feel he should be charged with perjury

And the raving review he received from Holly Hughes was downright strange.  She is one of those who voted to let go of State workers and is, therefore, a contributor to this problem. If she has been talking with Mr. Sutton for five years as they claimed -- why have they not done more sooner??? Why have these issues only worsened? As Ms. Hughes said herself, talk is cheap.  We need someone with balls to clean up this mess, not tell everyone at the hearing "no one has a gun to his head" and say things are fine at the Home.  May not be a gun, but we documented far too many residents who are clearly being given drugs leading to death, crippled vets in wheelchairs taken outside and left to freeze in near zero weather, without so much as a coat; crippled residents in wheelchairs left in hot sun to dehydrate;  fed food prepared on a food prep area directly below a bug zapper on a floor with sewage water backed up -- sending many to the hospital with gastrointestinal problems and too many other issues and abuses; deadly misdiagnoses and overdoses by staff, giving black box drugs like Seroquel, Depakote and drugs like sleeping pills and Ativan to residents to put them to sleep to self-admittedly manage staffing shortages.  Mr. Sutton's ignorance on the real issues is only exceeded by his arrogance. If he sees nothing wrong with these issues, he has no right saying he represents the residents' voices.

Mr. Sutton ignorantly talked like all the problems started only with the last administration, totally ignorant of the horrors the BOM inflicted on residents.  Totally ignorant of the harassment, intimidation and threats made by those same BOM members he covered for. I was personally threatened by a BOM who said he would "tear you to pieces for including my name in any report."  I was personally told to never speak with any legislator about the Home, that they "will hear only what I want them to hear" by one of the very BOM members.  When it became clear the AG and Gov. would only work with ill-informed leaders of certain veteran groups, we filed formal complaints with the federal OIG and V.A. Secretary and President Obama.  

They quietly began investigations.  We even involved the FBI re questionable deaths and abuses.  They addressed some of concerns in the two audits this year.  Those people only look into claims that have substance, as ours did and was.  We met with legislators with documented facts -- not hypotheticals like Mr. Sutton presented to the hearing legislators.  

We invited to Rep. Tom Barrett to visit the Home and meet with residents.  We helped him do what he called "a surprise sting" operation at the Home.  He was appalled that not one staff member acknowledged his presence or even said "hello" as he entered the Home in torn clothing.  He said it was like he did not exist as he walked the halls -- until he ran into a Board of Managers member surprised to see him.  He was saddened to see most residents walking or rolling with their heads down, seemingly afraid to make eye contact with anyone they met.  He was given a tour of the Home by a resident, from that resident's perspective. I recall that day being led to a sunroom that was packed with dozens of veterans in wheelchairs, dying residents in beds that were rolled in, packed so closely it was hard to move, no tv on, no food coming...just sitting there unable to move.  The smell of unchanged diapers was overwhelming.  They all just sat or laid there, staring down at the floor, too afraid to even talk with each other.    I learned that day staff was short and that was one way they controlled it.  

After that, Rep. Barrett, at our request, not Mr. Sutton's, started the process to get these hearings held to eventually bring a hearing to the Home so residents could speak to legislators and be heard -- meetings certain BOM members and past Administration had stopped multiple times before.  Mr. Sutton seemed clueless that this was a major issue with residents. 

So, perhaps AL leadership can understand why we are extremely outraged that Mr. Sutton closed three weeks of intense hearings implying everything is fine at the Home. His statements implied the American Legion knows more about what is happening at the Home than the residents who live at the Home and came to Lansing to testify knew. So wrong.  He left those in the know thinking "American Legion appears clueless to the reality of the issues residents request help with."  Clueless as to the veterans found with maggots in their feet who died days later; clueless to the discomfort of residents forced to lie in their own excrement for long periods of time; clueless to the numerous calls for help that go unanswered; clueless to the number of cold meals residents get because there are not enough caregivers to feed them while food is hot;  clueless to the pain veterans suffer from bed sores caused by insufficient rotation again due to staff shortages; clueless to veterans who became ill and could not get outside second opinions (not even with the help of a congressman); clueless to the veteran who was denied help and only survived because he violated protocol and called for someone on the outside to take him to the nearest emergency room -- where he was immediately to admitted to ICU with a confirmed drug overdose administered by Home staff and told he was not likely to survive the night; clueless to the threats and harassment made against those who tried to complain or speak up; clueless to the head injuries  residents received in an area Administration failed to repair despite months of notices and requests; clueless to the veterans who are dying from neglect or turned away to live homeless nearby. Too many residents are silently suffering, humiliated and abused by overworked or under-caring staff. Yet Mr. Sutton implied these are all lies.

Let me tell the American Legion, the 80+ page report we sent to the OIG, gave dozens and dozens of documented abuses that happened to residents at that Home. We sorted fact from misunderstandings. We also included names, dates and photos to support claims. Yes, photos of mice in the cafeteria; photos of handicapped veterans who fell over and no caregiver was around, photos of neglect. Too much of Mr. Sutton's testimony was not even supported with accurate numbers or fact. Shame on him and the American Legion for undermining the hard work and effort of those who presented facts. Shame on both for failing to help those veterans at the Home.
In his haste to promote veterans, he failed to acknowledge that some of the strongest, documented claims against the Home were inflicted by BOM members who were veterans who abused their positions. The worst injustice is they were veterans who harmed resident veterans. Yes, if we have multiple people applying for a job and the playing field is even as far as qualifications, etc., preference points should be considered. But it is because Board members have been chosen solely because they are a veteran, not because they are qualified, that residents were under served.   

How hypocritical it was of Mr. Sutton to tell legislators to visit the Home, when not one veteran present from the Home had ever met him.  

In closing, Mr. Sutton's comments were a stinging slap in the face to the residents, volunteers, caregivers, family members and advocates who spent months listening to issues, documenting abuses and worked hard to address them. If he truly represented the American Legion, as he claimed, that tells us the entire organization is grossly out of touch with the reality of the situations at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.  We find that appalling and shameful.  American Legion owes the residents at the Home a HUGE apology.

A Veterans' Advocate

Blog Ed: There were OTHER AL members at those hearings who did NOT wear their AL hats. And more than one American Legion person gave testimony that supported claims by Resident veterans who were at the hearings, and 1 former resident veteran, about how bad things were. 

Also is is my understanding that the Legislature is looking at returning the homes management back to the Dept of Health and Human services and eliminating the Board of Managers. Governor John Engler's experiment, I think, is a failure, and its time to end it.  -The Blog owner.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mark Sutton, Public relations Director for The American Legion Department of Michigan, doesn't have a clue.

Thursday 17 March 2016 at the State of Michigan Joint House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Oversight and Ethics Committee held its last day of hearing testimony from veterans and veterans advocates. The last to speak was Mark Sutton.

Mark Sutton, the public relations director for The American Legion Department of Michigan, "Not everything is bad there," he said. "Not everybody thinks it is a prison."

Well to Mark I have this to say:

Only the ones who recently arrived after Sara Dunne was removed, and Leslie and Scott took over, giving the veterans hope once again,  or the ones whom had muddled minds, or were so doped up from drugs, didn't think it was a prison. Most veterans who were aware of their surroundings and situations, did.

Many MANY veterans were afraid to speak up out of fear of being kicked out of the home - a home that was the only place many of them had that they could even remotely call a home. They watched as veterans were tossed to the street under the Sara Dunne administration and did NOT want to suffer the same, so they suffered in Silence.

Sorry Mark, but you did not live there.. WE DID.. You do not speak for the residents and former residents of that home. Your opinion isn't even close to the horrors many of us witnessed.
Close your eyes to that fact if you will Mark Sutton. It will not change what happened.

Update: I got chewed out by a friend for posting this. Sorry Catherine Buckley, but I was there in Lansing the day Mark Testified. He was the last one to do so. I am an Eye witness to what he said and I will NOT withdraw these comments.  In fact, I am going to post more right after this.

Residents, advocates give disturbing testimony in latest Grand Rapids Home for Veterans hearing

The Video here is amazing..Seen here are Greg, Jerry and  Lino got in the background.

Plan to overhaul Grand Rapids Veterans Home oversight introduced

WXMI Fox 17 in Grand Rapids, did the best article on the home and so I am posting it here, as I think it is VERY important, and this way we all have a copy of what was reported.

Begin article

Plan to overhaul Grand Rapids Veterans Home oversight introduced

gr vets.jpg 
LANSING, MI —State lawmakers are recommending a plan to address problems revealed by a recent audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

A 10-point plan to address the issues at the facility, one of two such state-run nursing homes for veterans in Michigan, was approved Thursday afternoon in a 6-0 vote By the state House Oversight and Ethics Committee.

The plan proposes overhaul of the system to address complaints; ongoing facility inspections and reviews of governance and budgeting; employment and contracts and the handling of people who die at the home. It also calls for a comprehensive review of the veteran home model in Michigan.

The plan: Report approved by the House Oversight and Ethics Committee

A state audit released on Feb. 18 revealed inadequate staffing levels and a failure to properly investigate allegations or abuse, neglect and inadequate staffing at the home.
Jeff Barnes, the director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, resigned a day later. Major Gen. Gregory Vadnais, director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, called the report "embarrassing."

Jerry Lucksted, a resident of the home for nine years, testified before a joint legislative hearing on the topic Thursday saying some residents of the home view it as "a prison." Lucksted described horrific neglect of patients, including two of his friends. "They were found with maggots in their feet," Lucksted said. "That pretty much tells you what the care has been like. It was not too long after those maggots were found in those gentlemen's feet that they died."

Mark Sutton, the public relations director for The American Legion Department of Michigan, also testified Thursday. Sutton challenged state lawmakers to both recommend and adequately fund changes needed at the facility. "Everyone supports veterans until it costs them money," he said. "A lot of the issues we have here today can only be fixed by funding."

In addition to more funding, Sutton said the home needs an independent ombudsman to handle complaints from veterans and a better structure to encourage veterans be hired as employees.
Sutton tempered criticism of conditions at the home, encouraging lawmakers to go there and see it for themselves. "Not everything is bad there," he said. "Not everybody thinks it is a prison."

The comments from Sutton, Lucksted and others came on the third day of hearings held in the wake of the audit's release, during a joint meeting of the House Oversight and Ethics and Military and Veterans Affairs committees.

The 10-point plan will go House Appropriations Committee and the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee for their review. It's approval in the Oversight and Ethics Committee is just one step to having recommendations approved, and possible changes made at the facility.
Other parts of the plan include: reviewing the budgeting process and how state funding is used; reviewing contracting and employment issues; and reviweing the protocol for handling dead bodies and conducting autopsies.

State Rep. Holly Hughes, R-White River Township, challenged her fellow lawmakers to take meaningful action. "We're ignoring them," Hughes said. "We're giving them lip service that we care about our veterans. As well-meaning as all of us are, we are not putting our money where our mouth is." She advocated for action to be taken on the requests and concerns voiced by Sutton.
"Shame on us if we don't address this list," Hughes said. "Let this be a huge wake-up call to each and every one of us."

The report also calls for Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate allegations of over-medication, abuse and neglect raised by those giving testimony on March 3, 10 and 17.
Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 25, said the union was not surprised by the results of the audit.
"We have been making these complaints for the last five years," Ciaramitaro said.
Vietnam veteran Ed Helwig described the stories he has heard from residents at the home as "adult abuse and neglect."

"People not showing up, diapers not being changed regularly," Helwig said. "People not being turned, bed sores. How would you feel?"

He joined others speaking Thursday in asking state lawmakers provide the funding necessary to correct the staffing shortages and other problems revealed by the audit.

"I see a major problem," Helwig said. "And I think you don't have the money to fix it. That's the issue right now."

Mark Tower covers government and politics for MLive. Contact him at 989-284-4807, by email at or follow him on TwitterFacebook or Google+.

Blog Ed's comments:  1st, isn't Rep Holly Huges one of those people who voted to reduce the homes budget?

2nd. Yes the home is underfunded.. but in a state that has been in a 1 state recession, who hasn't been?  As one congress person said, "We are in a budget crisis here. We have to dump huge amounts of money into Flint, the Detroit schools, and now the veterans home."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Veterans Abusing Staff and Volunteers at the Vets home.

You talk about abuse of the veterans??? Well How about when the veteran is abusing the staff, or the volunteer??

Lately all volunteers are going thru a series of training sessions. And get this, they are told the cannot do anything when they catch a veteran KNOWINGLY cheating, or abusing them.

Well some of the vets heard about this and a few have become real a-holes to the staff. On Guy on Dom unit has become a royal pain already. Threatening to write up several staff members and verbally attacking one of the volunteers who has been serving at the home for over 20 years. Telling him " you can say sh*t to me, don't say a word or I will write you up and get you kicked out of here.
Apparently one volunteer group is threatening to stop going to the home because of this jerk. This is a case where one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.

This kind of Abuse of Staff and Volunteers BY the veterans themselves cannot be tolerated as there is NO EXCUSE for it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

State legislature hears testimony about Veterans home - and latest news..

MIRS Capitol Capsule Headlines
Barrett Wants AG To Investigate GR Vets Home For Abuse

The Attorney General needs to investigate the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans based on "disturbing" and "disgusting" testimony of abuse given to a joint House committee this morning, said House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Tom BARRETT (R-Potterville) and Rep. Holly HUGHES (R-Montague).

Also, two veteran advocates said they want two key state officials with oversight over the Grand Rapids Home removed for intimidating workers and residents to prevent them from blowing the whistle on the facility's poor conditions.

Jim DUNN, deputy director of service administration at the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), and LinoPRETTO, an appointed member of Gov. Rick SNYDER's Michigan Veterans Facilities Board of Managers, were fingered as threatening individuals.

Kooyers described her interaction with state administration as "bizarre." She alleged that Dunn, who oversees the administration of the state's two veterans homes, forbade her to speak to legislators about conditions at the home, telling her "Legislators will hear what I want them to hear."

Buckley testified that she was confronted by Pretto while leaving the Capitol building last week and stated that Pretto is a "bully" who "instills fear" in veterans staying under state care.
"He's a decorated veteran himself, but that doesn't give him the right to play God with our veterans," Buckley said.

The VMAA has no plans to make further leadership changes, said MVAA communications director Suzanne THELEN, regarding the removal of Dunn.
"We are making the changes that are necessary," said Thelen.

Well, Thelen had better take a look at removing Dunn. He is not trusted and seen as part of the problem and further testimony to be heard by the committee will further give evidence that he needs to be removed.


Want to remind everyone here. The people who contribute to this page do so at great risk. Under the old administration of the Vets home, any vet who lives at the home who is a friend of the authors of this page, would be targeted for reprisal, Aka, Guilt by association. This is why they can post anonymously. And why we do not want their ID's revealed at this time.
Anyone with a facebook ID can post here on the left side of this page.
It also concerns me that the new Director of the MVAA who is a lawyer has been asking about who we are. Maybe in time we will reveal ourselves, but for now, We plead the 5th, and 1st Amendments.


The Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC did an execelent article about Michigan and Rick Snyders problems. A 4 part article, 1st up was the fiasco at the Vets home.

Also Wood TV did an very good article about the Testimony given to the state legislature on Thursday 10 March 2016.

March 2016 Board of Managers Meeting

Guys, post this to the blog - Greg.     (ok, here it is)

Board of Managers Meeting Today. 9 March 2016

Well, Let me start out by saying I am impressed with what I saw today. And this is BEFORE I got my good news, which I will share at the end of this.

Among other people present was the new director of the Mich Dept of Veterans Affairs Agency. Missing was Jim Dunn and Gary Davis, 2 people whose names have been mentioned as the next ones to be removed or who veterans are calling for their resignations.

Two ladies whose father was now at the home, who had been at the home for just 3 months, expressed their concern over the removal of the beer function at Kozy corners, and the possible loss of Kozy corners.. and said members should be allowed to have a beer or glass of wine if their doctors ok it.

Kim Olinger talked about getting new furniture for day rooms.

Lot of changes taking place between administration and BOM, in what they communicate to each other.

Marquette home Dom unit has 11 of 22 beds used.. 50 percent capacity, GRH4V is down to 30 percent capacity.

As expected a lot of hearings with government over the scandals at the home.

The overhaul of the complaint process - Scott reporting vets coming to him saying their problems were addressed quickly.

Checks and balances being imposed on pharmacy department.

Electronic medical records system install will be done by end of month, after that, just tweaking it as everyone will be on it..

I noticed the old admittance office is now the security watch office, where Security monitors various cameras, keeping eyes on veterans..

Reports on audit do not always accurately tell the whole story. Some info used is OLD info.. or focused on 1 bad instance out of 500 good ones.

New manager at gift shop, - its open more than 1 hour a week now.

Reported that the veterans person at Federal Senator Debby Stabinaw's office barley knew there were 2 vets homes in Michigan, and that 1 was in G.R.

new Director of MVAA talked for a while about things..

Talked about the Boards lack of presentation to government and public about long term goals, and projects, which makes it hard to get funding.. how long have they been working on the 4th floor, and when does the 3rd, 2nd and 1st floor renovation begin? (if ever).

Talk of getting funding for a 3rd and 4th home for east side of state and one up by Cadillac. This would reduce the population in GR, and might help with lack of ability to get full staffing.

J2S looses 7 people a week.

Kim talked about the daily announcement that they needed people to stay an extra shift..

Federal level, House Resolution 2460 to provide funding for the new Vets home buildings.

Public comments.. Non resident Nam vet stood up and told us his life story just to tell us he was happy about how things are improving here.. never understood why people have to tell their life story just to say "thanks for doing a good job".


Now the good news.. after the open meeting, but before the board went to a closed meeting to discuss specifics on members, I approached Bob Johnson, Chairman to tell him about this article I had seen about parking signs that said "parking for super hero's only" and in parenthesis, were the words "Veteran or First responder".  I thought it was nice that several cities are now doing that.  

Well Bob said he was glad I came up to him as he had talked to Leslie about my case. Know this, this is the first time I have heard Leslie or Scott speak, (and at this time have yet to meet them) and I was impressed. Bob told me to go talk to Leslie.. the meeting was over so I meandered around and found Scott and introduced myself.. then I found Leslie and again, introduced myself and told her Bob had told me to go talk to her about my case.

Needless to say, 2 things happened. 1 she told me to get a volunteer application for my participation in Guitars for veterans.. and 2, she said there is a new administration in place, and the policies of the old one, are being reviewed and changed and not to worry about coming on property to visit friends. I.E. Sara Dunne's banning vets for life is OVER or probably will be very soon. Leslie knows a lotta guys got kicked out without due process or for political reasons (for speaking up about her). 

The policy of banning people for life from the property is being reviewed by Leslie. She said many changes have happened,and more are on the way.

That news made my day..   - Greg

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Michigan lawmakers start Nonprofit to help veterans in response to Veterans Home Problems.

pretty bad when our state lawmakers have to turn to a non profit organization to meet its obligation to our veterans.. SHAME on Michigan.
WOW was stunned to learn tonight that Rep. Tom Barrett started a nonprofit for vets at the Home!!!