For Immediate Release
October 3, 2013
Contact: Jennifer Murray
LANSING, Mich. —Today the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State Police and Military Affairs continued its drive to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not simply being appropriated but that they are being used effectively to deliver quality government services.
The focus of today’s committee hearing was the performance of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) with regard to care for our veterans who reside at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV).
The hearing provided an opportunity to review the improvements made since 2011 and identify any other opportunities for improvement. Representatives from the DMVA discussed service improvements particularly in the realm of healthcare and the recent appropriations for full-time psychiatric care as well as additional nursing staff that now exceed levels of staffing required by the federal veterans affairs administration. As an indicator of the progress that has been made at the home, a 2009 audit of the GRHV by the Federal Veterans Affairs Agency yielded 25 citations. The most recent audit conducted by the agency yielded only four.
“First and foremost, it is our responsibility to ensure that our veterans are being treated with dignity and respect and that they are receiving the quality of care they deserve,” said Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, Chair of the subcommittee. “The purpose of these hearings is to bring all parties to the table and address in an open and transparent fashion any allegations of unsatisfactory care, while working collaboratively to ensure that we have a complaint process in place that is adequately addressing the needs of the home’s residents.”
AFSCME representative, Nick Ciaramitaro, who represents the individuals laid off by the privatization, has contended that since a contract went into effect last winter privatizing resident care aides, levels of care had declined at the home. The DMVA has been investigating the union’s claims. Grand Rapids area State Representatives Winnie Brinks and Brandon Dillon and U.P. Representative Scott Dianda also proceeded to voice their concerns over issues raised by anonymous individuals regarding the quality of care at the home.
Lino Pretto, Veterans Home Board of Managers member, responded to the concerns by noting that while it is expected that there will be some upheaval and dissatisfaction whenever there is a transition taking place, the Home has worked diligently with staff, the DMVA, the company providing the resident care aides and the Board of Managers to ensure that those upheavals are minimized and any issues are addressed and all complaints are being investigated. He further stated that the transition is an ongoing process and improvements are being made as questions are being raised.
The next hearing slated for November will examine the current complaint process in more detail.