Snyder signs bill requiring quarterly vets home reports

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill Wednesday his office says will make sure veteran home conditions are better scrutinized after a February audit revealed problems at a state-run veteran’s nursing home in Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs would have to issue written reports to the governor’s office and Legislature four times a year under a bill Snyder signed Wednesday. But most of the information that would be submitted “already is compiled and reported to the Legislature on a monthly or quarterly basis,” according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis.

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler agreed the state budget process already requires such information to be available to the Legislature. He said the new law makes sure the reports continue longterm.

“Our state’s veterans deserve the highest standards of care available, and this bill helps ensure that the conditions of veterans’ homes are evaluated and reported on more consistently and effectively,” Snyder said in a Wednesday statement.

The new reports would have to include information on staffing levels relative to industry standards, patient complaints, the time it took for staff to review those complaints and how long it took staff to distribute pharmaceutical drugs. Staff would also have to include information on how patient money was accounted for and the number of veterans’ facility deaths.

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General issued a scathing report in February that concluded the veterans affairs agency didn’t ensure sufficient care services at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, a partially privatized facility where a combination of state and contract workers care for more than 430 residents.

The audit spurred Michigan’s chief veteran’s affairs official Jeff Barnes to resign from office. He led the state’s Veterans Affairs Agency for three years but had no medical facility experience before his appointment in 2013.

Allegations of abuse and neglect were not investigated at the Grand Rapids nursing home, according to the February audit. The private contractor hired to provide residential care aides failed to adequately staff the home, and workers compromised residents’ safety by failing to conduct required location and alarm checks.

State Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, sponsored the bill Snyder signed Wednesday requiring the new quarterly reports.