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.
Plan to overhaul Grand Rapids Veterans Home oversight introduced
Scathing Veterans Home Audit
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- Military leader apologizes to veterans, vows changes after 'embarrassing' audit
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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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook 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."