Vets home needs to be investigated

Lawmakers aren’t investigators. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that lawmakers are trying to sift through allegations made about what one legislator called “disturbing” activities at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
Oct 14, 2013

And, as these legislators try to determine whether the neglect and other complaints are a result of the private contracting firm brought in to care for the aging veterans, there are 500 veterans still living in now questionable conditions.

That is not acceptable.

Our veterans deserve better, and they deserve care that doesn’t involve having a piece of tape placed over their mouths.

Of course, it would be easier for the powers that be if they didn’t have a voice. But, here’s the thing: They fought for their rights, benefits and voice.

They should be heard, and an outside investigative agency should be brought in to listen to them about the conditions at the home. Let them tell their stories, and tell their stories to investigators who can make an unbiased recommendation for how the home should be run in the future.

Legislators made the decision to save $4 million a year by laying off about 150 state nursing aides in March and turning the work over to a private contractor. Now those same legislators are looking into complaints? That seems a bit too cozy.

Perhaps privatizing the home was a mistake, or perhaps the union workers who lost their jobs are trying to cause problems. Either could well be the case.

But, if there is even a bit of truth to the complaints about care at the home, the bad seeds need to be rooted out and policies put in place so such elder victimization never happens again.

We need to stand up for our veterans, as they’ve stood up for us in the past. Our veterans need all of us to demand an independent investigation and appropriate action.

Count us in on that call to arms.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

Highlander

The media could do a little "old fashioned" investigative reporting. Part of the issue is a lack of proper funding which contributes to antiquated facilities, reduced staffing (and retaining the best staff our vets deserve). The staff that is left works very hard, but can only do so much with what they have. Americans (real patriotic ones) would be ashamed what we offer our war heroes as "care".

Our country wraps itself in the flag and chants USA when the wars start, but those same people who cheer as the war begins really aren't interested when asked to pay taxes to fund the war, and to properly treat our returning veterans as they seek support (many need our financial help as they suffer war injuries, with PTSDs and excessively high suicide rates).

Many Americans fight like yard dogs to protect their 2nd Amendment rights, yet ignore other "sacred" amendments and shirk their responsibility to take care of their soldiers who fought so they wouldn't have too. That's pretty damn embarrassing.

Highlander

Duplicate post.

LessThanAmused

Yeah, well what you said needs to be said twice anyhow. Excellent post.
I have a cousin who worked there for years and to say she was bitter about the things she had to deal with and the lack of services and care the vets got, would be an understatement, really did her in....she used to talk about it, but won't even discuss it any more.

Mac Wildstar

we had some good state workers there, and a few ditzy ones too.
But With J2S the guys never have the same staff.. Always someone new. High turn over rate.. just to name a few things.

One of the J2s workers is a long time friend of mine. They told me they train workers for J2S now, and in the 3 years they have been training people, J2S has never asked what they think of the new hired person. That is not good.

Mac Wildstar

You are 100 percent correct, the home needs to be investigated, and IS by several agencies including 2 federal. State Representative Winnie Brinks, and others have called for investigations of the home as well.

And I am currently looking for a lawyer to sue the home for what they did to me.

The home has abused veterans for too long and gotten away with it.Read all about it on a blog by one of the former members.

www.GRH4V.Blogspot.com and you will be amazed at the stuff that has gone on there in the last 3 years and is STILL going on there.
And yes, I am a veteran who resided at the home for some time, but I got out.

Highlander

I think it's corrupt of the legislators who first cut funding to then call "foul" as suggested in the editorial. It would be responsible of the media to hold those cretin accountable. But that would risk advertising revenue, eh?

Highlander

I hear that the VA in Battle Creek is horrible. Totally "unAmerican" for this to take place- a lack of funding, minimal importance, and for very little press to be seen exposing the so- called care we give to those who risk everything to protect American ideals.

Cheryel

I am the wife of a resident at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. My husband has been there since August 2010. FYI, my husband is a 100% service connected disabled veteran. The problem at the home is not privatized or union workers. The problem is the overall lack of concern and care for the veteran. Within 4 months of my husband being a resident there, the home decided to get the Kent County Probate Court involved. As a result, my husband was given a court appointed guardian and conservator. Now, if he doesn't take some heavy duty mind altering drugs, he is denied his electric wheel chair. Thanks to the people at the Home, they were successful in keeping my husband and I apart for 14 months. My husband is not allowed to come home for any extended time. Once I got this 14 month separation behind me, my husband now has to ask permission to go out for dinner with me. His conservator, with the home's cooperation, has used my husband's pension or Social Security to pay medical bills that should be paid by his insurance. They refuse to bill his insurance. While at the home, my husband's identity has been stolen twice. The home doesn't care nor will they do anything about it. At the home's encouragement, my husband's guardian filed divorce on his behalf. It cost close to $20,000 to get this dropped. Either the home or the guardian have inquired about our mortgage with an attempt to get my name off jointly owned real estate. They clearly want our home but I hope I have that properly secured. The administration at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans are greedy and power hungry and treat the veterans worse than those in prison. many of you don't realize that there is a Courtyard at the Home. This is where people are placed who are "naughty". Several of them are placed there for the rest of their lives. The problem at the Home isn't privatized or union workers. The problem at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is the administration, at the Grand Rapids level and in Lansing. Nobody dares to go against them. I am glad our veterans had the courage to fight when duty called. How can we repay them for this gallant and valiant efforts? There are many rumors circulating thru the home that the Home wants all veterans in residency there to have court appointed guardians and conservators. God help us all if they succeed in this.

Tri-cities realist

Wow this article seems to be the tip of the iceburg, a thorough investigation seems past due.

LessThanAmused

Cheryel

If all you say is true and I'm not saying it isn't, but if it is, that's almost too much info for one post for the average reader, myself included. I've got a dozen questions myself. It sounds like what's needed is a big brother. Someone with much more power and clout than you or any group of "regular" folks would normally have.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to be kept up on your situation until there's some kind of resolution. It sounds like your husband is being held as a prisoner. What you say begs the question....why don't you just go get him out of that joint? Why allow him to stay there? Is there nowhere else he can go?

Like I said, a dozen questions.

Tip of the iceberg indeed!

rukidding

and seconded!

Citizen

From the comment, it sounds like it's hard enough just to get him out for dinner, never mind a permanent removal. That doesn't mean it might not be the right solution, but it doesn't sound so simple.

LessThanAmused

Maybe what we need to do is dress up all in black and go get him while under the cover of darkness......

After we find somewhere else to care for him in a manner befitting him of course.

How can they possibly hold him captive? We need more info, although I'm not sure more info will help my disposition any.

Mac Wildstar

Several State Legislature people tried to get an independent ombudsman for the veterans, but Governor Snyder veto'ed it. Now they have no voice.

And yes its all true. That is why we scour the news papers for articles like this and comment. We are trying to get the word out. The local news people are all but banned from the home.

Mac Wildstar

Less than amused, you need to understand. Once a veteran becomes subject to a guardian or conservator, the become a slave. The Guardian is the veteran. The conservator is the holder of finance for the veteran.

Case in point. Fred. Fred was 68 years old, Vietnam vet who after a 20 year battle, won his case for agent orange. Awarded 90,000 dollars, he started spending his winnings on lottery tickets and started having fun. The home did not like him doing that, so they got a conservator appointed for him, and she stopped him spending anything.
Now Fred likes his booze, and usually has a pint with him, but hes a friendly kind of drunk, not a belligerent kind. Fred also gets a VA pension, and the home claimed he was wasting his money. The fact is every month after he got his settlement, his bank account balance was always LARGER than the previous month, despite his spending 2 to 3 hundred dollars on instant lottery tickets. The fact was Fred knew he could not spend all that money before he died. But he tried and the home didn't like what he was doing (having fun with it) so the got the court to appoint a conservator who now gives him 50 a week. They don't like him drinking so because of that, they restrict his money to 20 a week or less. Its HIS MONEY, not theirs. Yet this is what they are doing.

Another problem at the home. Guys OWN their own power chairs. And if they do anything to anger the staff, or do something the staff disagrees with, they get their property (their power wheel chairs) taken away from them for periods of time from 1 day to 3 months. This is not right.

Also, did you know the home has its own inside jail? Its called the "court yard" and guys that get sent there have 1 nurse 24/7 assigned to them. They have limited privileges, and are rarely seen outside the unit doors, unless accompanied by their nurse I.E. prison guard.

Many veterans have college degrees, BA's, Masters, Engineering, PHD's, and all are treated as if they were elementary school drop outs.

More people should take the time to visit the guys at the home and sit and talk to them. They would be amazed at what goes on there.

Cheryel

I apologize for the lengthy comment. But yes, it is all true and everybody is scared to death to do anything. My husband has a place to go. It is home here with his wife. For him to be here would be wonderful. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. His health is failing. He has lost close to 40 pounds. The drugs they have him on means it is impossible to have an intelligent conversation with him. I want my husband back.

LessThanAmused

Please explain, in some detail, why you can't just go get him. I don't understand. I don't see how they can hold him hostage unless there's something here you're not telling us.

TooMuch

You don't understand. They are there because they cannot care for themselves and cannot be cared for at home. They don't pay for in home health care! Their rights have been taken away by everyone. I am assuming a lot because all the facts are not here obviously. It drives me crazy because people are so uninformed and make such rash judgment!!! It's a catch 22. We have no problem letting these people risk their lives for our freedom and liberties (really trying to keep this short) yet when we are done with them we (society) do not take care of them! The government won't pay for them if they have assets in some cases. They are entitled to the benefits as lacking as they are. They are required to jump through so many hoops they give up. They don't get the proper treatment they need. They get subpar treatment. The cream of the crop doctors do not work there or at the VA hospitals. Then the legislators bring even more subpar workers "because they can " and those workers are the lowest of the lowest untrained that there is and at the bottom of the pay scale. IT IS ABOUT MONEY! There is no one keeping them in check. No balance system. You can't sue them, they are protected, they have governmental immunity. No union or watchdog. Only families that no one listens too...until it is THEIR family. Already too long, you get the gist.

Mac Wildstar

Then let me enlighten you folks as to what is going on.
The home is using the State Guardian laws, to strip Veterans of their assets, and in many cases, stop family members from having any contact with them.

Once a veteran becomes subject to a guardian or conservator, they become a state slave. They have no rights. One fellow in particular is quite aware of what they are doing.
Let me introduce you to Joe. Joe is a retired Korean Vet. His family has a history of epalepsi (spelling?). He shows no sign of it. He is a man of sound mind, but not body and his wife cannot care for him any more. He spends his days in his wheel chair, quietly reading books, and stuff, down by Kozy Corners (our lounge area).
The home wants to get him a guardian to force him to take epalepsi drugs, that he does not need as he doesn't have it. They make him woozie and disorientated. So he as refused to take them. He found out last month that for the last 6 months, his wive has been going to court to stop the guardian process. And to make things worse, his daughter is a Surgical RN. SHe knows what those drugs do and she says he doesn't need them, and that if he does need a guardian, it will be her, not some state appointed one. The home does not like that, as family tends to interfere with their ability to control a veteran, and to stop them taking assets from a veteran. When Joe told me of this, he was crying. 67 years old with an engineering degree and this is how they treat him.
If the home gets a guardian appointed over him, he will loose his rights to say NO to them. He will become another prisoner at the home. And that is why so many feel that the home is now a prison for veterans.

And he is not the only one they do this to.

Recently it was made clear that the home intends on getting as many veterans as they can, state appointed guardians. Why, I have no idea, but I believe it is so that they can better control the veteran.

Just the tip of the iceberg is correct. Disgrace to veterans is correct.
Now what can we do about it?

Mac Wildstar

Let me tell you something about suicide. If a veteran mentions that they even THOUGHT about it, they get labeled a nut case, and loose their Constitutional secured rights. So many do not dare even discuss it.

Is dying better? Depends on your point of view. For many veterans, its a logical choice rather than spend the rest of their days living in conditions that are unacceptable, or to deal with endless medical problems or pain.

In my case, I nearly had a catastrophic heart attack. A quad bypass saved my life, but also so drastically changed it, I constantly wonder if I made the right choice. I went from a productive citizen, to one that is now dependent on government handouts. My medical condition is a constant battle with one thing or another. From Edema in my legs to bacterial infections that never seem to be eliminated, to problems breathing, to not being able to get a good nights sleep. It all adds up and makes live difficult for us. Ive had just 5 nights, where I slept more than 6 hours straight, since my heart operation 3 years ago. I usually sleep in a lazy boy chair. I cannot sleep laying flat anymore. Even so, I still have to get up 3 times a night to go to the potty, due to the drugs I am taking. Dreams? I have nightmares. I wake up disorientated thinking I'm late for work due to the fact i worked nights for over 30 years. Then I fully wake up and realize where I am, and that I don't need to get dressed and that's why I can't find my work boots that I threw out 2 years ago. Then the depression hits. And there is no help for it. Depression is a constant companion along with pain. We are left to deal with as best we can and many simply give up trying.

Some guys turn to drugs, others alcohol, others just give up and take the easy way out and commit suicide.

That is why the suicide rate is so high.

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