Major changes in store for the GR vets home


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Years of complaints about the conditions at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans were confirmed by an audit in February that found major flaws in housing and healthcare. This was followed by hearings in Lansing and Grand Rapids where lawmakers heard horror stories from veterans and their advocates about their treatment at the home.

The situation has the director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency — former Kent County Circuit Court Judge and Navy veteran James Robert Redford — calling for sweeping changes.

“It is such a really sacred privilege to be able to care for and provide a home for those who have said, generation after generation, send me, I will lay down my life if necessary for my nation,” Redford said during an exclusive interview with 24 Hour News 8.

Now, a blue ribbon panel made up of lawmakers, veterans and experts in the care for the elderly and disabled is calling for major changes. The most noticeable change will come in the rebuilding and redesign of the Grand Rapids Home — a hulking, sprawling, multi-story facility originally constructed in 1885.

“(We will) try to build a new facility in Grand Rapids and to build a facility in the Detroit area,” Redford said.

A consistent critique of the home by veterans and their advocates was, that with its 550 beds, the facility was simply too big to be efficient.

The new home would instead by a series of smaller structures that would allow for smaller staffs and more individual attention. The new plan calls for cooperation with private providers and work to keep veterans in their homes and to change where homes are located.

“There’d be more homes, they’d be smaller, they’d be much more modern, so that veterans wouldn’t necessarily have to leave a part of the state that they grew up in, raised their families in, had grandkids in,” Redford said.

The committee has been looking at homes across the country for years, including ones like this in Tennessee.

“Tennessee looked very good, I’ll be candid with you, Tennessee is a wonderful model,” Redford said.

The report also addresses one of the major problems identified — that of a transient, inexperienced and underpaid staff.

“The authority seeks to have the folks who work in our home be the employees of our home,” Redford explained. “To be a place where a person can begin their career and stay.”

24 Hour News 8 talked to veterans advocates who are concerned that these recommendations were created without the input of the general public and without veterans who have been impacted on the committee.

These plans will be undertaken by a new authority that will replace the veterans’ agency. The authority will be allowed to seek bonds to pay for all these changes.

So, the bottom line is the legislature and potentially the voting public will have to be on board with these recommendations if they are to become reality.

—–Online: Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Report (pdf)

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