Monday, June 13, 2016
State legislature has hearing at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to hear Veterans concerns.
The State of Michigan House of Representatives joint committee made up of the members of the House ethics committee and the Military affairs oversight committee met today at the Grand Rapids home for veterans to give those members and their families who could not go to Lansing to testify, a chance to be heard.
As expected the homes list of speakers was ignored and the people wishing to speak had to fill out a little card, like you do when you go to Lansing.
No one screened the speakers before they were allowed to speak. This resulted in about 5 speakers rambling on about things that had nothing to do with what this joint committee could act upon, and the topic the speakers talked about should have been handled by the member council.
One guy in a powered wheelchair, rambled on for 15 minutes, repeating himself time and time again about the main dining room chow service line exit and how members were ignoring the one way sign, and entering the exit area to get refills of their juice drinks. That guy should never have been allowed to waste the Congress’s time. And we have written about the chow hall problem on this blog, so this mans complaints are old news.
Others came up and complained about things we already know about – lack of staffing, poor staffing, J2S problems, etc.
Acting pro tem Nursing Unit Council president Ken spoke about how things have taken a turn for the better, but that we have just started that, and that it will take time to return the facility to being the HOME for veterans that it once was.
Throughout the morning, people made it clear, that there is a BIG difference between the Frank Snarski, Sara Dunne and now the Leslie and Scott administrations, and that the home suffered greatly under Sara Dunne. One comment made was that Sara ran the home as if it were a FOR profit business, and that a Veterans home cannot be run that way.
Another complaint covered by at least 3 veterans, was that 100 percent service connected veterans are being charged extra money for things the VA should be covering, like transportation to and from doctor appointments that cannot be done at the home.
Also, lack of proper action by the homes medical staff, leading to the deaths of several veterans. Wayne from Dom unit, talked about lack of medical treatment for one veteran named Dean, and how the home failed to address a safety issue with a former driver for the home. All of which happened under the Dunne administration. He also gave written testimony about his own recent medical problems at the home.
Tony M., also from Dorm unit, talked about nursing for the Dorm unit, and how we went from 3 nursed down to 1. He complained about the nurse they now have and said that the guys call her “It ain’t my job Cathy”. She is a long time state worker who transferred to the vets home from the state prison system and has on several occasions called the veterans “inmates”. He also said that she has told a number of veterans that with her seniority and as a member of the UAW union, she would have to kill someone to be able to be fired. Tony said the first word in caregiver is care, and if you don’t care as Cathy seems not to, you should not be at that home.
Also the Guardian issue was brought up by several speakers. Talk of several ways the guardians abuse their charges (the veterans) and how the home has made a lot of use of the guardian program. Not a lot of detail, but enough to know this is a subject that need to be looked at in more detail, and I will do so in another post.
The speakers talked about the fees the guardians charged, and how they wasted Veterans monies without being held account able for it. Consensus was that the courts have allowed those guardians to financially rape the Veterans.
Cheryel Ware, Widow of Richard Ware, was the first to bring up the guardian issue when she took the mic and told the legislature that the home murdered her husband, by way of guardian and drugs that Richard did not need. She precisely described what happened to Richard and how the Administrations use of the guardian program, which is used on many veterans at the home, caused his death. Her testimony will appear in full, here and on our main blog page. Congressional Representative Holly who represents the district Cheryel lives in was present at this hearing. It was Holly’s office that failed to give help to the Ware’s when her office was asked to help them.
Also Mark Suttons, the American Legion person who at the last hearing in Lansing said that not everyone thought the home was a prison, was present when Cheryl told the committee that Richard became a prisoner to the guardian and her accomplices - the court system, but he walked out during her testimony and I believe did not listen to it.
The guardian named Cynthia Thornberry was Richard Ware’s court appointed guardian was present at todays hearing, but was not present during Cheryels testimony. Missing was Richards counselor, Karen Fugi who is on maternity leave, and who is the one whom requested Richard be assigned a Guardian over Cheryels objections. FYI, Karen Fugi also got guardians for many of the veterans under her care. This was done during the Sara Dunne administration.
Cheryel also described how the guardian was able to use the veterans own money to pay for things the veteran did not want, like lawyers fees for a divorce that never happened, and when the veteran tried to have the guardian removed, how the court allowed the guardian to use the veterans own money to pay for lawyer fees to represent the guardian. That is like forcing the victim of a crime to pay for the criminal’s defense attorney. This is veteran abuse. The court was the Kent County Family court and the judge in this case was David Murkowski about whom we have written about on the main blog page.
And veteran abuse by guardians was talked about a lot. Another lady talked about the guardian assigned to her father, and how the family member is not being informed of things she needs to know. She says they are not telling her when her dad gets sent to the hospital and what for. She finds out 3rd hand after the fact. Also her father’s burial wishes were ignored and the guardian named Hawthorne bought a burial plot and a prepaid burial package for a man who wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread over Fort Custer.
Andy Balls granddaughter and lawyer testified about his unnecessary death at the home. This case is in the courts now. Andy Ball was the WWII vet with Alzheimer’s who got beaten to death by another Alzheimer veteran because the staff did not do its job properly.
Tony Spalone, who filed the first court case against the state for removing the state care givers, filed another complaint with the legislatures about rotating care givers, so that a veteran has to train a new one every day. He also mentioned that while Michigan is one of the top 10 states to provide people to the Military, we are last in getting those veterans the help they need after service, and that it needs to change.
Apparently their might be a “no competition” contract with J2S workers. J2S has told its workers that they cannot quit and be hired by one of the other nursing Unit care provider companies, but would have to wait 6 months before they could be hired by another company. Someone asked if that was legal. And one of the congressional representatives said it was.
We thank the State Legislatures for taking the time and traveling to the Grand Rapids home for veterans to give the veterans a chance to be heard. Chairman McBroom said they will also be going to the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette Michigan soon so that they will have a chance to be heard as well.