New report claims improvement at GR vets home

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A year after the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans was the subject of a bruising audit, a new survey finds the home is meeting almost all the standards required.

It’s some good news for the state Veterans Affairs Department on this weekend dedicated to those veterans who have paid the ultimate price.

The federal audit in February 2016 found a series of problems, including failing to check on patients, delayed prescriptions and failing to investigate complaints. This led to legislative hearings in Lansing and at the home in Grand Rapids where elected officials were outraged by what they heard.

Catherine Kooyers of Wyoming is not a veteran or a spouse of a veteran, but she has a special place in her heart for those who have served. She has been a tireless advocate for them over the past three years.

“We started going there every day, documenting stories and getting the records to prove because in the original days some of the stories were so outrageous, I couldn’t believe them myself,” Kooyers said. “We couldn’t work with the governor — he wouldn’t work with us, we couldn’t work with the legislators because they were told not to work with veterans and so to make the long story short, we escalated it to the federal AIG.”

Kooyers was rebuffed by the leadership of the home and discredited as a gadfly exaggerating what was happening at the home. Her claims would be proven true, and if anything the problem was worse than even she believed.

It was the work of her and a group of vets and their supporters who got the attention of the state and then the federal government leading to sweeping changes in the leadership of the veterans’ agency.

This week comes this new report from the federal government saying the home has met 230 out of 231 standards.

“This is great news in terms of the progress made in a short period of time to improve the quality of care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a release.

“I’m just so grateful for the tremendous hard work of the staff at the facilities,” Former Kent County Circuit Court Judge James Robert Redford told 24 Hour News 8 via telephone.

James Robert Redford on Feb. 26, 2016.

Redford was tasked last year by the governor with fixing the home. He deflects credit saying all he does is get resources to the people who work there and the rest is done by those who provide the care.

“We’re not perfect, we need to continue to improve in areas that we work on improving every single day,” Redford said.

While no fan of the Snyder administration’s work with veterans, Kooyers has nothing but praise for Redford’ attempts to fix.

“The fact is he has really gone, we feel, above and beyond to try and fix this situation,” she said of Redford.

But Kooyers said by no means is the work done.

“There has been improvement, I’m not going to say there hasn’t been, there has been dramatic improvement, but we have a long way to go,” she said.

Kooyers said the new report does not address issues with any specificity and does not look at some of the issues the home has had over the year.

“I’m looking deeper and I’m seeing a lot of issues that still need to be addressed,” Kooyers said.

On Tuesday, Redford will be at the home along with Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais and numerous veterans with a concert beginning at 1:15 p.m. sharp.

The ceremony includes the posting of the colors, chaplains will read the names of each member of the home who passed away in the last year and will end with taps and a three-volley salute in the cemetery.