The 13 Watchdog team is learning new details regarding proposed changes at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. The House Oversight committee is recommending at least two new hires to have independent oversight over what happens in the facility.
Some lawmakers have been calling for months for an ombudsman to be hired to make sure veterans are being cared for properly. We've been told there is a recommendation to hire a compliance officer and an ombudsman at the facility, the positions performing different duties.
There are still questions how the positions will be funded, but there's a belief that everybody involved agrees a new layer of oversight needs to be added.
This news comes as several veterans and veterans advocates testified before the House committee Thursday.
Harriet Sturim, the auxiliary chaplain of American Legion Post 459, testified that she's spent her life caring for veterans. Her testimony today raised concerns about a failing member.
"Lately her hair is not combed or brushed and her clothes are dirty," Sturim said. "Her head is always down and she looks depressed."
Sturim says her friend was once well-cared for at this facility but now, she says, is falling apart.
"To see a person go from well-cared-for status to one of neglect is so disgraceful and a total disregard for human dignity," Sturim said.
The 13 Watchdog team asked about Sturim's comments and we were told by state leaders that the situation with that member would be investigated.
Sturim was one of several veterans and advocates who testified about conditions inside the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, particularly about concerns over staffing.
Last year, the 13 Watchdog team broke the news that the company that's supposed to staff the facility with many of its care workers, J2S, is routinely short-staffing the facility.
On Thursday, some are calling for the state to end the deal with J2S and to recall more than 100 state workers.
"Our organization is ready, willing and able to work with you to locate people who have great experience and have done the job well as state employees," AFSCME Council 25 Legislative Director Nick Ciaramitaro said.
The hope is that the extra oversight will fix the issue of managers there not investigating or responding to allegations of abuse and neglect in the facility. That issue was spotlighted in a recent Auditor General report regarding numerous issues at the Home for Veterans.