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Military, state officials address GR veterans' home issues

Hilary Farrell

Military and state officials commented Friday on numerous issues found in an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, which also prompted the resignation of a top official.

"The results of the audit obviously are disappointing, embarrassing."

Major General Gregory Vadnais is the adjutant general and the director of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. 

At the Friday press conference, Vadnais and other state officials apologized to veterans and discussed plans for corrective steps already taken and in process.

Vadnais also confirmed the resignation of Jeff Barnes, the now-former director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, and appointment of interim director James Redford.

It came on the heels of a state audit released Friday morning identifying multiple issues at the Grand Rapids state-managed facility.

Problems included staffing levels, inadequate resident care services and a failure to properly handle complaints – including those for abuse and neglect.

Leslie Shanlian is CEO of the Michigan Veteran Health System, which has oversight of state veteran homes.

She say changes already in place include a previous three-week average complaint wait time to a 72-hour turnaround; 24 hours if the complaint alleges abuse.

"It will take time," she says. "[This] did not happen overnight, (and it) will not get fixed overnight." 

Officials called previous systems in place bulky, dated and broken, and acknowledged difficulty in the state's transition from public to privately-contracted employees, as well as more recent difficulties with J2S Group, which oversees employment at the home. 

Grand Rapids Representative Winnie Brinks says staffing issues are not new.

"To tell you the honest truth, we've been hearing these kinds of things for as long as I've been in the legislature," she says, "and I'm in my second term."

Shanlian declined comment on consequences for staff found to have forged documentation of safety checks and other issues, except to say it involved a mix of public and private staff and some are no longer employed.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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