MacGregor’s Veterans Ombudsman bill approved by committee

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Peter MacGregor that would establish the Office of the Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman was approved by the Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee on Thursday.

The legislation stems from recent audits conducted by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General that revealed a pattern of mismanagement at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“After years of troubling reports and apparent inaction to correct the problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, it is clear something more must be done,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “Since the latest audit, leadership changes have been made within the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and at the home, which is a good step. However, an independent Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman would be better able to identify, investigate and recommend fixes for problems so our veterans can receive the quality care that they have earned and deserve.”

Senate Bill 809 would authorize the ombudsman to investigate Michigan veterans’ facilities — the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans — for acts or conditions that allegedly violate law or policy, or that pose significant health or safety issues. The office would be able to inspect a facility at any time, on its own accord or by request, and conduct investigational hearings and subpoena individuals and documents.

The ombudsman would report to the Legislative Council. Following investigations, the ombudsman would be required to produce reports, with recommendations, to the council. Additionally, the ombudsman would be required to submit a biannual report to the council and the Legislature.

“Michigan’s military veterans devoted their lives in service of our country,” MacGregor said. “We must ensure that they receive the best possible care, and a veterans’ ombudsman will help accomplish that.”

SB 809 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.