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The recent state audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans confirms that contracting out state services to a private for-profit entity ends up costing Michigan residents more.

Veterans who live at the Grand Rapids home, who have made many sacrifices for our state and country, are not receiving the care they have earned and deserve, and are suffering due to incompetent management and undertrained, unresponsive staff.

This is unconscionable and must end now.

The audit revealed that the Grand Rapids home has remained chronically understaffed, fall alerts continually have gone unanswered, medicine has not been properly dispensed and 90 percent of allegations of abuse and neglect were not properly responded to or investigated.

Removing the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director was the right move. But that is not enough. We can’t let our veterans continue living in a home where their basic needs are unmet, fall alerts are ignored, and staff is falsifying records, claiming they respond to incidents when there is documented evidence they do not.

House Democrats have been calling for investigations into problems at the veterans home. Before the home was privatized, a lawsuit was filed by a resident saying residents would be subjected to substandard care. In August of 2012, the Court of Appeals ruled against the resident and the resident care aides were privatized. Now, the worst has come true and problems surfaced after a private company was brought in to provide care.

A 2013 audit exposed problems with psychiatric care and financial accountability. Now conditions at the home are worse and dangerous. The time for talk is over. The state must act now to protect veterans and terminate the contract. The state must take control of the home and bring back state employees to again provide appropriate care.

Michigan has two veterans homes, the second being the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. Two facilities likely cannot meet the needs of our elderly veterans, or the needs of future veterans. It is time to consider opening a third veterans home in southeastern Michigan, where most of our veterans live. We call for a study to determine the number of veterans and the need for services expected. This study must happen now and be completed in a timely manner. A third veterans home must be staffed with state workers.

Our tax dollars should be used wisely to provide services to veterans, and not to line the pockets of corporations profiting at the expense of these veterans. The bottom line must be the excellent care of our veterans and not penny-pinching to improve a financial spreadsheet.

Our veterans deserve caregivers who do their jobs well and respond to their needs. We look forward to hearing from the new interim MVAA Director James Redford about his plans. We will monitor the Grand Rapids home to ensure that residents are safe. No one should worry that if they fall they won’t receive help quickly. No one should be afraid to speak up and demand excellent care.

Our veterans put the safety of their fellow citizens before their own. It’s time that we put the care of those veterans first.

State Reps. Henry Yanez and David Rutledge are Democrats from Sterling Heights and Ypsilanti, respectively.

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