Senators to hold hearings on Grand Rapids Home for Veterans after latest audit

LANSING, Mich. – The Senate Oversight and Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security committees will hold hearings on the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans after a new audit conducted by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General revealed a troubling pattern of mismanagement and neglect at the home.

Senators Peter MacGregor and Margaret O’Brien, who chair the respective committees, said legislators will look into the home’s operations to determine what more can be done within the state Legislature to bring accountability and transparency to the home and ensure the best possible care and treatment of the state’s veterans.

“Michigan’s brave military veterans dedicated their lives to serving us, sacrificing time away from their families to defend our freedom and way of life,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “We owe them so much, not the least of which is taking care of our veterans when they return home. What is happening at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is unacceptable and a disservice to those who served our country. Serious changes must be made.”

The performance audit of the home outlines in detail nine findings where staff –both privately-contracted employees and union and non-union employees that work directly for the state of Michigan – failed to adequately meet obligations to provide care to the home’s members. Many of the problems identified in the latest audit have carried over from a 2013 audit.

The new audit assessed four main objectives: the sufficiency of the home’s provision of member care services; the effectiveness of the home’s administration of pharmaceuticals; the effectiveness of the home’s management of complaints and incidents regarding member care; and the sufficiency of the home’s controls over collection of assessments, donations and member funds.

The auditor’s nine findings indicated:

  1. Staff at the home did not perform regular member location checks 43 percent of the time despite reporting that they had occurred 100 percent. Supervisors approved 17 out of 25 of those false location check sheets. Similarly, fall checks did not happen 33 percent of the time but were reported to have happened 96 percent of the time.
  2. The contractor did not meet staffing requirements 81 percent of the time, and on any given day was short by as many as 22 people.
  3. Staff improperly administered prescribed pharmaceuticals, causing insurance reimbursement inefficiencies and possible quality of care issues. Thirty-nine percent of all nonnarcotic prescriptions were either refilled too late or too early.
  4. Staff did not effectively develop, execute and monitor all veteran comprehensive care plans.
  5. The home did not establish adequate controls over nonnarcotic pharmaceuticals to ensure they were accounted for and protected against loss and misuse.
  6. The home did not bill members’ insurance companies for all eligible prescriptions dispensed and did not follow up on prescriptions that were billed but rejected by insurance companies.
  7. The home did not track or properly investigate or respond to member complaints, including allegations of abuse and neglect.
  8. The home did not implement sufficient controls over the disbursement of funds belonging to veterans who were discharged or passed away, and may not have disbursed funds in a timely manner.
  9. The home did not effectively document and resolve past-due member assessments.

“The latest findings from the state auditor general add to a growing list of issues that have plagued the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans for more than a decade,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “It is clear that supposed internal actions taken by the home to fix these problems haven’t worked. Michiganders and our veterans demand that action be taken to right this wrong as soon as possible.”

The senators noted that recent moves to hire new leadership staff by the Michigan Veteran Health System, which operates within the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and oversees the home, is a positive step but the home’s systemic failures require more action.

“I am very angry and disappointed by the findings of the audit,” O’Brien said. “Our veterans deserve better. Now that the auditor general has identified the causes of the problems at the home we won’t be satisfied until our veterans receive the proper care and treatment they deserve.”

The committees will announce hearings in the coming weeks.

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Bills introduced to cut red tape at Michigan schools

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation introduced at a press conference on Tuesday would help Michigan schools by eliminating unnecessary and redundant reporting requirements and by streamlining the reporting process.

“We focus a lot of attention and effort toward improving Michigan’s education system,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored Senate Bill 762 in the 14-bill package. “A key part of those efforts has been to make sure more resources reach the classroom for student instruction. Unfortunately, outdated and burdensome reporting requirements are holding our schools back by distracting school officials from their primary duties of educating our children. These common sense bills will help update the reporting process to make it more efficient and less time consuming so educators can focus more on student achievement.”

Michigan school districts are mandated to prepare and submit hundreds of reports to state and federal entities. These reports can be time-consuming and tedious to produce and are often redundant or even obsolete by the submission date.

Education reporting requirements are not limited to the state’s education code — they litter Michigan law. Unfortunately, there is no published comprehensive index to easily locate all mandated reports. These reports are costly, often taking a great deal of staff time and resources.

In addition to MacGregor, the following senators are sponsors of the bills in the legislative package:

  • Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township (SB 754)
  • Darwin Booher, R-Evart (SBs 756-757)
  • Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton (SB 758)
  • Goeff Hansen, R-Hart (SB 766)
  • Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth (SB 761)
  • Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy (SB 755)
  • Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage (SB 767)
  • Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City (SB 763)
  • Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake (SB 764)
  • Jim Stamas, R-Midland (SBs 759-760)
  • Dale Zorn, R-Ida (SB 765)

SBs 754-767 are expected to be referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

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