11 employees at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans charged with crimes

Veterans Home charges

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged eleven former caregivers at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans with falsifying medical records after charting they had checked on veterans, when surveillance video shows the checks were never done.

Schuette is charging all of them with "an intentional or willful violation of MCL 750.492a by a healthcare provider is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both."

"This is a message to our veterans that they are deserving of dignity, honor and respect and when that requirement falls short there's going to be criminal charges and that's what we did today," Schuette said.

Court documents the 13 Watchdog team obtained today show some veterans were not checked on by caregivers for more than seven hours, even though they're supposed to be checked on hourly.

Here are the employees charged:

Tyisha Toliver, 40, of Grand Rapids, is charged with four counts of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Doris Penny, 59, of Grand Rapids, is charged with three counts of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Eric Anderson, 59, of Holland, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Jasmine Ferrer, 27, of Wyoming, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Cary Gerencer, 52, of Sand Lake is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Sheryl Hillyer, 62, of Lansing, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Lolitta Jackson, 39, of Grand Rapids, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Emina Kahriman, 53, of Grand Rapids, is charged with two counts of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Michelle Longmire, 49, of Muskegon, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Roconda Singleton, 39, of Grand Rapids, is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Sequoyah Thomas, 23, of Grand Rapids is charged with one count of violating MCL 750.492a, intentional inclusion in patient medical records or charts of misleading or inaccurate information.

Schuette told us last year this current investigation was prompted by a Michigan Office of the Auditor General report, released in February 2016, showing some embarrassing problems at that facility. The report indicated the veterans living at the facility were suffering because of a lack of staffing.

The report also indicated executives at the Home for Veterans didn't properly investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. The audit also spotlighted the issue of caregivers not checking on members when they were supposed to be watching them.

►Related: Muskegon County woman charged with abusing veteran at the Home for Veterans

Last year, the auditor general's investigation confirmed via surveillance video that 43-percent of the member locations checks and 33-percent of the fall alarm checks in their samples did not occur at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, potentially putting members at risk.

The report indicated the Home for Veterans provided documentation as if the checks occurred 100-percent and 96-percent of the time.  It was noted in the auditor general's investigation that on 17 out of 25 check sheets sampled by investigators, supervisors certified checks that did not happen.

Since that time, the auditor general is reporting that the Home for Veterans submitted a proper corrective action plan to ensure employees actually do the work to check on people. Leaders at the Military Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) indicated no members were harmed as a result of a lack of member checking and random review of surveillance video is now being done to make sure veterans get the proper attention.

“Since February 2016, everyone at MVAA and the Michigan Veterans Health System has been working very hard to address all findings of the audit, and substantial progress has been made,” Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director James Robert Redford said.

Redford indicated the home has increased staffing, instituted both member location checks and random checks of reports by each assistant director of nursing.  He also indicated the MVAA was cooperating with the attorney general's investigation.

“The safety and well-being of all those we have the privilege of serving is of paramount concern to MVAA staff, and we are taking all possible measures to make certain we are fulfilling these responsibilities,” Redford said. “We have put additional education and policies in place intended to correct previously identified deficiencies and to ensure we are providing the best care possible.”

The member checks seem important considering multiple sources told us in the past the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans has had to deal with veterans leaving the facility for long periods of time. Some of the members, we are told by our sources, were put in vulnerable positions by being out for periods of time.

Some in Michigan's legislature are not satisfied with the investigation and say Attorney General Schuette didn't act quick enough. Democrats say they warned the current administration about problems in the facility back in 2013.

“I continue to be incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed that the state ignored repeated calls to investigate the horrible situation that unfolded after the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans was privatized," Rep Winnie Brinks (R-Grand Rapids) said in a statement to us.

"I’m glad to see that we finally have some action on this, but today’s announcement of the charges brought against direct care workers should not be the end. The residents of the home, their families, and our community deserve a full accounting and investigation of what occurred at the Grand Rapids facility – from the caregivers all the way up through department leadership."

"The tragedy here is that the state’s years of inaction caused Michigan veterans to suffer neglect and abuse at the Grand Rapids Home For Veterans, and this investigation lets our veterans down once again by not holding those responsible for ensuring the provision of good care, accountable for what happened on their watch," Rep. Brinks wrote.

Schuette brushed off questions about the timing of the investigation indicating there was "nothing political" about the situation.  He told us he simply wanted to find the truth in the investigation and added it took time for his investigators to look at all facets of the investigation to see if people broke the law.

"Every veteran in our homes in Michigan needs to be treated with respect for their service," Schuette said.

This is the second criminal case regarding the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans this year.  Earlier this year caregiver Laurie Botbyl was charged with third degree vulnerable adult abuse for pushing a veteran's wheelchair into a desk.  Botbyl is scheduled to go to trial in late August.

All of the criminal charges were filed in Kent County's 61st District Court.  

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like thisDownload the WZZM 13 app now.

Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment