Saturday, February 25, 2017

In Perspective, where things stand now.

In Perspective. *From my point of view.*

After years of wishy washy management at best, and being transferred from one state agency to the next, in the year 2000, Michigan elected ex Gateway CEO Rick Snyder to be Governor of Michigan. Governor Snyder created the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, and placed the Veterans homes under it. 

At the original blog page about the Grand Rapids Home For Veterans, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 published a list of grievances that the Sara Dunne administration refused or failed to address. 

Let us look at those issues then, and now. 

1.       Lack of voice for veterans.—Veterans have no voice here to act on their behalf. – That was then. Now Veterans have a voice via the Veterans Ombudsman, Mr. Kelly Cody. We made progress on this, the most critical issue reported back in 2012. 

2.       Deterioration of quality of life for veterans due to poor management. Many organizations and people who have volunteered for years, have been driven out, kicked out, or just gave up, due to poor administration policies and lack of cooperation by the staff.  Nothing has changed here.

3.       Lack of accountability and misappropriations of donated funds and goods. We have documented several cases of donations being misplaced, re-routed, and or out right stolen, items being sent to a second hand store that never get to veterans, and numerous missing donations that never get to veterans. – While there has been some improvement in accountability for the most part, not much has changed with this concern either. 

4.       Systematic removal of veteran support organizations, and volunteers.
This practice has stopped.

 5.       Lack of any viable chain of command, nor any continuity of policy enforcement. Can anyone tell any of you who is in charge of your choice of units here? For example, who is in charge of the Dormitory unit? The Alzheimer unit? 2 Blue?  Policy established in writing is applied as they see fit, not uniformly. Even the Board of Managers claimed they did NOT know the 4th floor was being closed—AFTER it was already closed! – Again, not much has changed here, according to what residents are telling us.
6.       Systematic pillage of veterans financial assets using the guardian/conservator laws. It is becoming clear to those of us who are now on vigilance, that the home is using the states conservator/guardian laws to systematically remove all assets from a veteran, if he/she has any, once they get here and if they are an older veteran.   – We have seen some changes here, but not enough. Conservators still do what they do, when they want, with little or no oversight. Even the Congressional representatives who came to GRHFV to hold a hearing, admitted that the guardian/conservator laws is a big mess the government needs to address. And one that so far, they have not.
7.  Mail tampering, no mail system is existent, no safe guards in place.  -  Nothing has changed here.  

8.      Constructive fraud of members application contract, and monthly financial Statements.  The Member admittance application clearly says members are responsible for the monthly cost of being here. Yet Members never receive copies of their admittance contract, nor monthly financial statements.  – Again nothing has changed here.
9.       No security for veterans on the facility. Security department’s first and only contractual job, is fire watch. It is not drunk watch, or anything else. – While some security things have changed, the fact is, there is still no police presence on the grounds. But security is doing a much better job of watching what does happen on the grounds and in the units. 

10.   A Home that is not a Home, nor A Hospital by any other name.
 Nothing has changed about this yet. The place is still not considered a residence for anyone.   

11.  Theft of veterans personal property from rooms by staff. - This unfortunately still continues, and those being caught are being prosecuted now. 

 12    Kitchen and Dining, The food is a threat to the health of veterans. Meals served cold, Under cooked food, poor variety of available choices. Too many empty calories and carbohydrates. This has been an ongoing issue for over 2 years now. The food here is actually a health risk for many veterans. And we are tired of talking to the Staff who refuse to do anything about it. – Veterans who speak up about this are told to shut up or get kicked out of the home. NOTHING here has improved. 
Many veterans are afraid to speak up, out of fear of being targeted for expulsion. For many, this is the last place they have to live for they have no were else to go and so they are afraid of being kicked out for speaking out.

Added Dec 2014

13. Lack of medical records computer systems at the home, to be able to communicate and update veterans health records with the VA system, so that the records are up to date.  The VA cannot access the veterans medical records from the home and the home cannot access the VA medical records. This is causing medical care problems for Veterans. 
The new medical records system is still being worked on however this problem is being addressed and will be completed soon, as the home wishes to be Medicare Medicaid compliant, and needs this system in place and working to become qualified.

14. The home is still not wired for internet for resident’s rooms, and visitors in hallways and Public places.  There is some wireless internet, but it is for doctors and staff. The only real wireless internet for residents is still only found in Rankin Dorm unit. Public places such as the Main Entrance, Dining hall, Cozy Corners, Pavilion or APR room still do not have public access wireless internet for members and their guests.

So as you can see, not much has changed. But some things have changed.
Due to an (expected) bad VA audit, the administration was changed, and a big shake up at MVAA occurred. Some say not enough of the upper management at MVAA were removed, and there are a few that still need to be fired from that group.
We got an Ombudsman for the veterans. They now have a voice. However, the GRHFV population has been cut in half from 750+ people to about 350.  Domiciliary which was at near full capacity is now down to 25 percent capacity and still getting smaller. 

The New administration and the state spent a small fortune of taxpayer money trying to come up with solutions to solve problems. It has become clear to many watchers that despite having over 660,000 veterans in Michigan, the state does not want to have to spend state money on the care of ANY veterans. However it must, as it is a requirement of the federal social contract.

So due to the extremely bad VA Audit report, the MVAA created yet another bureaucracy to run the veterans homes calling it the Michigan Veterans health care system. It brought on a new CEO, and 6 vice presidents, 2 Daily operations officers, Got rid of most of the old administration at the GR home, and a slew of other experts to help them build a model for a future system that would be able to meet the needs of the state as far as its obligations to veterans are concerned. 

The result was the recommendation to build 5 smaller veterans units, at various locations throughout the state. Their recommendation was based on the Model of veterans homes from the state of Tennessee. They also recommended a need to create yet another government bureaucracy to run it, called an authority that we have no idea if there will be any accountability to the legislature or to taxpayers for what it does.

Also, the CEO of the new Michigan Veterans Health care System signed a 2 year contract but quit after 1 year on the job. First reported as being for family reasons a more in depth report showed the CEO quit because of encountering constant road blocks. In other words, the people who hired the CEO were preventing the CEO from doing the job they hired the CEO to do! This does not surprise me one bit as there are key players in the MVAA that I and others think are the real problem and until they are removed, we will continue to see this trend of things not getting accomplished. 

As Congressman Steve McBroom said, “show us the results, we are tired of hearing the talk”. Yet today that is all we are getting. Talk, and few if any real results. 

In the meantime, the GR location is working on dropping its current population to about 120 residents from the current 350. 

Fewer residents, mean less staff needed, fewer volunteers, fewer everything, thus saving the state money. This is probably why not much has improved as far as the day to day things for veterans, especially their meals. 

Recent Board of Manager policy changes now require that if a Nursing unit person is kicked out of the home, there has to be a place for that person to go to, where they can get the medical care they need. Domiciliary people can be kicked to the curb with or without any reason or need, with or without prior notice. That has all of those people very frightened and worried.

Many are now calling for the VA to establish a retirement home for veterans and for the VA to pull all funding from the Michigan veterans homes. 

So that is where things appear to be as of this time.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Conversation about GR Vets home between 2 admins

A1 = There was a man, homeless, standing at the entrance to Walmart by me. I was in my car.
I lowered my window and he told me he was a veteran. He had a wife who was going to have a baby in the next month or so

She was living with her parents but he wasn't allowed to be with her as his inlaws didn't like him.
I made some calls and got him a ride to the GRHV where he stayed for about a year.
He is now gainfully employed at Home Depot. They have an adorable little boy

The Home was an essential part of his recovery.

We cannot forget the purpose of the Home. Yes, it is in bad shape now
BUT it has helped many in many ways, it helped you too
A2 = It won't be in the future. And it is not now.

A1 = I know it’s not now

A2 = Dom unit was, and I think still is needed, but its no longer functional.

A1 = I have been working on some things here. Who, in your opinion, should be held accountable?

A2 = Poor administrating from MVAA DOWN, they lost focus of what the Dom unit was for and did nothing when the feds changed the "homeless" rule.

A1 = Homeless Rule???

A2 = Yes. When I first arrived, vets in Dom were classified as homeless, qualifying them for HUD-VASH section 8 vouchers.. then in 2011, the Feds changed that rule, saying since we had a roof over our heads, beds to sleep in, and being fed 3 hots a day, we were no longer "homeless" per definition and thus no longer qualified to apply for hud-vash. Hud-vash was part of the transitory program at the home.

Without it, it is difficult if not impossible for a veteran to transition out of the place.

A1 = Here me out on this.
The Dom unit is the worst place for a healthy man, capable of contributing to society in meaningful employment.

I think of J who you and I both agree became institutionalized
J was working after his discharge from the Navy. Correct?
Steelcase closed up shop and he became a displaced worker
J had many options at that time and did not take advantage of any of them. Why?

A2 = First there needs to be employment available. . 2nd, age discrimination kicks in for most of the guys at Dom since their age is usually over 45 or older. 3rd, the ones there with drug and alchaol problems, and 4th no job resume/interview training. . but by 45 they should already know how to do that kind of thing.  . As for J, No idea what he did after Navy.  . think steelcase, yes.  .

A1 = Instead, he applied to the Home and was accepted.

A2 = J has mental issues - course we all do.. but that’s beside the point You have to remember, to even qualify to go to Dom at the time you had to be penny less, and “worthless” I.E. Have no assets. A man going from the position of being a productive member of society who takes care of himself, needing no help, to lose everything and end up a penny less homeless person is quite a mental shock for most people. This is why guys in Dom need that “time out” to get their minds back to normal. The stress and emotional roller coaster ride these guys go thru is just unbelievable. I see now why so many turn to drinking or worse, suicide.

A1 = In J’s case I agree. When did the mental issues occur?

A2 = No idea.. I can only guess at the time when he realized that once again the US government sold out the American people with NAFT and Generation X (which we are both part of) was about to get F’ed over yet again.

For example, I knew it was over when the economy collapsed in 2004-2008. It finally caught up with me in 2008, but I saw it coming and had no options at all. In fact, I am surprised I am alive now. In 2008 I was wondering if I would be alive at the end of the year, let alone 10 years later (which next year will be 10 years). And it has been a very, very, ruff road to travel.

At the time of the Eco crash, I was working 50-60 hours a week just to survive, trying to get student loans out of default, keep a roof over my head, and my car kept up. The Eco crash put an end to all of that.

And I think the stress of the fear that the home could have become a financial prison for me, contributed to my having that major heart attack which resulted in my becoming 100 percent disabled.
I just did not want to spend the rest of my life living like that. 
My future did a 180 degree flip-flop with no hope for recovery. I still have student loans haunting me and I am now 150 percent disabled, gearing up for a 6th heart attack, and I no longer give a sh*it about Student loans or much of anything else.

I mean what can they do to me now? I am damn near dead. But that was part of the roller coaster mental stuff that I went through, and other guys went thru a lot more with child support problems, VA disability claims, and other things. This is why we needed a “safe place”, a “time out” to sort things out and get things together so we could return to the ‘real world’.    

A1 = Jobs are now available for anybody who wants to work  Why aren't they being filled?
Chassix in Montague has openings for over 200 people. It is not a glory job where a suit and tie is worn. It does have a starting pay at $15 per hour.

A2 = A few jobs now, for too many people out of work, that have no benefits. 12 an hr is not enough to survive on let alone live on here. And guys at the home, remember most have already lost EVERYTHHING including their cars, savings, transportation, everything. Some places do not accept the bus lines as an acceptable form of transportation, and the busses don't always go where the jobs are.

Also remember, Montague and Chassix is in the middle of nowhere..why would someone from GR want to go there???

A=1 For a job

A2= 15 an hour? I was making 18 in 2008... 15 for starters isn't bad.. but after 90 needs to go a wee bit higher, like 18 to 20

A1 = What does GR have to offer if you don't have a job?

A2 = What good is Montiegue if ya can't even get there? And where they gonna live? These people can’t just pack up and relocate 100 miles away overnight. What is the housing situation there? What is the transportation situation there? If these people don’t have vehicles, how are they going to get to work?

Remember, current population of Dom unit is 25 percent capacity. Average age is 55 there now. So this really is a nowhere discussion as it will never apply to those who are left.

Dom unit today is a pre-morgueatorium.  These people are just waiting to die.

A1 = Those that are left are at the end of the line so to speak. The damage done to them is extensive

A2 = Correct

A1 = aAnd it never should have happened to them

A2 = I dare say out of 30, only about 7 could make it on the outside - and all 7 would need help

A1 = Sadly, I know

A2 = Out of sight, out of mind. Problem solved. let them rot is the mentality for the most part. No one is addressing the quality of daily life at the place. They are all focused on the future instead of dealing with the harsh reality of today at the place.

A1 = well, we are trying to change that mentality

A2 = Dom unit; if it still exists in the new place will probably be less than 5 beds. I dare say 10 at most.

A1 = A Home for veterans must be that. A Home. You cannot mix a Home with a hospital or nursing facility

A2 = well its not going to be a home,, it never was a HOME except in its name... This is clear by countless documents we have obtained. NO one recognizes the location as a place of residency. Post office, UPS, State and Federal governments, nothing. No one is acknowledging that people actually LIVE there. It’s like area 51, you can see it, you know it’s there but no one admits it’s really there.  Again, denial, and out of sight, out of mind, let em rot mentality.

A1 = If they take the facility on Monroe and turn it into a Home where those who reside there are educated and taught how to fit into society again, it would work.

A2 = Maybe before 1980 it was a home, but not since then.
Doing that now will cost too much - and the legislatures are making it clear, they want solutions that use federal money not state money.

A1 = The Republicans and Democrats in Lansing have one goal. Protect Snyder's backside

A2 = Not sure about the democrats... LOL But yeah, I think a lot of what we have seen is about protecting Snyder, because the MVAA is his baby. He inherited Flint and Detroit, and part even the veterans problems, but he created MVAA and its been the focus point of a lot of the stuff going on at the veterans place in G.R. Snyder cannot escape the fact that if it becomes a political quagmire, it will land square on his lap and there is no way he can brush it off or blame anyone else for it.