GRAND RAPIDS — Reps. Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids) and Tim Greimel (D–Auburn Hills) hosted a press conference today to demand justice for Grand Rapids Home for Veterans’ residents, and accountability for those responsible for their abuse and neglect.

Eleven employees are facing criminal charges for falsifying patient records.

 “Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette have known about the appalling conditions at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans since 2013,” Rep. Brinks said. “I implored the governor to open an investigation then, but he wouldn’t take action, and so our veterans needlessly suffered for four years, which is inexcusable.”

Reps. Brinks and Greimel made a surprise visit to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans in 2013, that uncovered allegations of abuse and neglect. The home’s director at that time said the visit was a “real disservice” to its residents and never investigated the claims. The governor and attorney general also declined to intervene.

“There is no question that the men and women who made sacrifices to serve our country deserve our absolute best in return,” Rep. Greimel said. “When we cut corners in delivering care to them, we are not giving them our best.  When we learn privatization has led to the most horrific abuses imaginable, there is no excuse for turning a blind eye. Our veterans deserve better.”

Tony Spallone, a resident of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, filed a lawsuit in 2011 to stop the home’s privatization.

“Attorney General Schuette fought us every step of the way when we told him that privatization would lead to a lower quality of care,” Spallone said. “He said that if we didn’t like it, we could go somewhere else, but we can’t. We’re disabled, and don’t have the resources to pack up and leave. When the state privatizes our care to save money, even if that means bringing in workers who abuse us, what it really means is the state doesn’t care.”

Veterans’ advocate Catherine Kooyers said the state showed no interest in working with her to address quality of care issues until a 2016 audit unveiled systemic abuse and neglect, including failure to respond to patient alerts, incorrectly dispensed medication, falsified patient charts and attempts to sweep allegations of abuse under the rug.

“These residents have been through horrors that have still not been dealt with, and they deserve justice,” Kooyers said. “Charging 11 lower-level people with wrongdoing is a start, but it’s not enough, and I am not going to stop demanding justice until higher-ups who looked the other way have been held accountable.”

 Reps. Brinks and Greimel continue to work to ensure that everyone involved in the decline in residents’ care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans be held accountable, and push for improvements at state-run veterans’ facilities until all residents receive the excellent care they deserve.