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Grand Rapids Veterans Home Audit—Another Snyder Scandal?

Problems were raised three years,
Gov. Snyder still reeling from the fallout over his handling of the Flint water crisis is now faced
with another scandal. An audit by the State’s Auditor General says workers employed by 2S
Group Healthforce at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home Michigan home falsely claimed they
were checking on patients after being alerted of possible falls, failed to properly investigate
allegations of abuse and neglect, and took too long to fill prescription. The adult also found that
J2S despite repeated warnings from state officials continue to provide inadequate staffing
The audit’s findings were no surprise veterans and their families who have long advocated
against the privatization of many of the functions the facility.
Studies have found that privatizing does not save money in the long run and the quality of care is
compromised. One such study was done by Roland Zullo from the University of Michigan
titled, “Privatizing Resident Care Aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans: Job Analysis
and Policy Implications”. Zullo found; “Quality of care” is in large part a function of the
relationship between the care giver and the veteran. The quality of care is negatively impacted
with contract staff because of high turnover rates, reduced safety for the Veterans and increasing
chances of accidental death or injury. Due to the lower paying jobs and no insurance or benefits,
contracted staff are less reliable and more likely to call-in or just fail to show up for a shift. They
are more likely to move on when a more attractive opportunity arises because their wage is
simply not enough to support basic needs such as housing, food and transportation. Many of the
contract workers could have second jobs and treat their job at the Grand Rapids Home for
Veterans as a means for supplementing other income sources.”
In 2012, Governor Snyder following the lead of the Michigan Legislature cut $4.2 million from
the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Veterans fought the privatization and cut in services. In
2013 Gov. Snyder laid off over 170 nurses’ aides and the contract company, J2S, replaced them
with workers making a fraction of the wages earned by the men and women they replaced.
Now, in light of the audit, many are questioning how did a company with no background
whatsoever in providing healthcare services end up with a lucrative state government contract to
care for elderly, disable military veterans? Why was the contract approved despite studies
showing the quality of care would likely suffer? And how is it that, after years and years of
proven malfeasance and inadequacy, J2S has kept the contract and continues to profit from
taxpayer dollars?
Shortly after the audit was released, Jeff Barnes, a former campaign manager to Gov. Rick
Snyder, resigned as director of the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency. James Robert Redford of
East Grand Rapids, Snyder's chief legal counsel, has been named interim director. The fox
guarding the hen house?
Alan J. Kilar