GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder has replaced the director of Michigan’s veterans affairs agency after an audit uncovered problems at a state-run nursing home for veterans.
Jeff Barnes, a former Army officer who led the agency for three years, resigned Friday at Snyder’s request.
“He did a tremendous service to the veterans community, the state. He stood the department up and [hit] many milestones as his three years as director,” a speaker said during a news conference Friday morning.
Federal and state military officials introduced James Redford as the agency’s leader for now.
Redford served in the Navy as part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He ended his 28-year career with the Navy in July 2012. Redford was also a military trial judge and was named commanding officer of the Navy Reserve Trial Judiciary. In October of 2012, he received the Legion of Merit medal.
Redford also served as a judge in Grand Rapids, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan and chief legal counsel for Snyder.
“When asked, I immediately said yes because of the privilege. It is of the singular nature to serve those who have served our nation and worn the cloth of our country. I pledge to you my fellow veterans and your family and your friends and everyone in Michigan while I have the privilege of serving together with this great team, by the general and the governor and our partners in the legislature, I pledge to you each hour of each day I will be guided by my Navy Marine Corps core values of honor, courage and commitment and I will let those values guide me every moment of every day I have the privilege of serving you,” said Redford.
An audit released Thursday said workers at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans falsely claimed they were checking on patients, failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, and took too long to fill prescriptions.
Snyder says the audit findings are “deeply troubling.”
“This audit is a reflection of three things that stick out in my mind: leadership, policies and procedures that are frankly 30 years outdated, and accountability. Our leadership team in the past have not been successful in keeping people accountable,” said Leslie Shanlian, who took over as Michigan Veteran Health System CEO in late October.
Shanlian was joined by Maj. Gen Gregory Vadnais, the director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the news conference.
During the conference, speakers discussed the problems surrounding J2S, the contracting company that replaced state workers a few years ago.
Between Oct. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2015, the Auditor General also found J2S continued to inadequately staff the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans even after the state filed four complaints against the group.
However, the attorney for J2S, Ben Symko, said fingers shouldn’t be pointed at the contracting company or anyone else at this time because there is a lot more to investigate.
“The best thing to do here is to try to understand what we can do to continue to better the care for these veterans. J2S is willing to participate in and cooperate with any legislative inquiry to ensure the health and safety of our veterans and that should speak for itself,” said Symko.>>PDF: Grand Rapids Home for Veterans full audit report
Veterans and people who have loved ones in the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans hope the home continues to get the needed attention to make sure the veterans are getting the proper care.
“That’s the biggest part of it is trust, and at this point I don’t know. I’m going to continue to keep my dad here because I don’t have anywhere else to take him so that’s difficult,” said Lisa Smith.
“This isn’t just typical of the veterans home. Things happen all over in nursing home care. Our elderly, those in our world that can’t speak for themselves, they deserve better. They deserve to be taken care of as you would take care of yourself, as you would take care of your own parent,” said Theresa Robinson, a veteran and the commander of the United Veterans Council.
Shanlian said the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans will move to an electronic medical record keeping system by June to make sure they are in line with industry standards.