Legislation to modernize Michigan veterans homes sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s veterans and their dependents would see improved access to long-term care and new state-of-the-art facilities under reform legislation that received bipartisan support and was finalized by the Senate on Thursday.

“Our veterans have served our nation valiantly and deserve only the best possible care when they are in need of additional long-term care services,” said state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “This legislation will modernize the way our veterans homes operate. These reforms will help us finally transform our veterans homes into ones that can quickly and easily adapt to the ever-changing nature of the medical and long-term care industries in order to provide our veterans and their spouses with the highest level of care possible.”

The proposal would create the Michigan Veterans Facility Authority to establish new veterans facilities in the state, in partnership with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA). The authority would focus first on construction of two new facilities, one replacing the aging facility in Grand Rapids, and a brand-new facility in Detroit to serve the large veterans population in that region. Last week the Legislature approved Senate Bill 800, a supplemental budget bill that provides the necessary funding to construct these two new facilities. The costs for these two projects will be funded with both state and federal funds.

SB 800 was signed by Gov. Snyder earlier this week.

MVAA would continue in its role of managing the existing facilities in Grand Rapids and Marquette while the new facilities are constructed. The Marquette home would continue to operate in its current building until the authority and MVAA are able to determine when constructing a new facility will be feasible. Investments have been made and continue to be funded at the Marquette home in an effort to improve the facilities for members residing there.

The bills give preference to existing employees when staffing new facilities and require the authority to consider national best practices and civil service commission rules and regulations when making operational and staffing decisions at the new homes.

“Since 2011 I have strived to ensure that our veterans across this state have a place to call home. I am pleased that the Legislature was able to come together to approve a solution to ensure that our cherished veterans will have better access to the long-term health care that they have earned, and provide new state-of-the-art facilities in more locations throughout our state,” said Sen. Pete MacGregor, R-Rockford.

The authority would be run by a board of nine and would be made up of professionals who have knowledge, skills or experience in long-term care and medicine. The board would include the director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; three members representing veterans service organizations; three members from the general public (one of whom must be from the Upper Peninsula); one member designated by the Senate majority leader; and one member designated by the speaker of the House.

One year after the second new facility opens, the MVAA director’s role as a board member would be replaced by a veteran with professional knowledge, skill or experience in long-term care, health care licensure or finance, or medicine. The board would then elect a new chairperson from the board membership.

The board must produce an annual report of its activities to the governor, Legislature and chairpersons of the respective legislative appropriations committees at the end of each fiscal year.

The four-bill package is the result of workgroup meetings that took place over several months earlier this year that involved members of the Legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, MVAA, and other veterans and health care organizations. The workgroup produced a report that, in addition to recommendations covered by this legislation, includes recommendations for further improvements.

The legislation builds upon improvements that have already been made at the MVAA and MVHS, following a Michigan Office of the Auditor General audit that revealed significant problems at the Grand Rapids home.

SBs 1097-1100 will now go to Gov. Snyder for final approval.