LANSING — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) is introducing a bill that would create the office of Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman, a position that would be tasked with investigating and resolving problems encountered by the residents, family and friends of Michigan’s two veterans’ homes. The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette have been the center of several complaints in the past few years.
“It’s important that we do more to observe Veterans’ Day than simply pass a resolution and thank our veterans for their service,” Rep. Brinks said. “True gratitude means we must follow through on our promise to care for our veterans when they age or encounter disabilities. Our veterans deserve the best care we can give them, but too often, they’ve settled for less. It’s time we changed that.”
Earlier this year, it was discovered that the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans lacked a food safety license it needed in order to serve meals to residents’ families and friends, as well as the home’s own staff and volunteers. Many people travel for several hours from around the state — or out of state — in order to spend time with loved ones who live in the home, and leaving the home to get a meal was a hardship and prevented families from dining together. Rep. Brinks led the effort to get the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to address the issue, and administrators eventually applied for and received the missing license.
The home also came under sharp criticism after complaints about poor quality of care surfaced after the home laid off state workers and replaced them with contract employees. Some residents were left in their own waste, while others repeatedly pressed their call buttons for help to no avail. Complaints continue to surface about the quality of care provided by the company contracted to provide direct care to residents. The House Military and Veterans Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony last week on the persistent understaffing of certified nursing assistants at the facility.
“The residents of our veterans’ homes and their families deserve an efficient and understanding process to address concerns they have about the quality of care in the homes,” Brinks said. “Establishing an office that exists to listen to complaints, investigate claims and find resolutions will improve the care of our veterans and restore their dignity. I urge all of my colleagues who care for the health and wellbeing of our veterans to support this bill.”