Veterans Affairs

The suicide rate for Michigan veterans is more than twice as high as the state's overall rate, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last month.

A report says troubles at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans’ Home are largely resolved.

A 2016, audit of the home revealed that the home was chronically understaffed, and instances of patient abuse and neglect. There were also issues with dispensing drugs and un-answered calls for assistance.

The state Auditor General’s Office released a follow-up report Thursday. It says care at the home has improved. For example, it found caregivers keep better track of where patients are, and the home is looking into patient complaints more thoroughly.

While personnel are still in the military, the doctors they see understand their experiences in combat, or in other situations, might mean they have certain healthcare issues.

Once veterans are out of the military, though, their private physicians might not even think to ask if they’ve served. That’s an oversight one doctor is working to correct.

Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

State legislators are preparing to investigate a Grand Rapids nursing home for veterans that was sharply criticized in an audit released last month by the state’s Auditor General.

Governor Rick Snyder called the findings ‘deeply troubling,’ and the director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, Jeff Barnes, resigned last month.

According to the report, some allegations of abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans went uninvestigated by nursing home staff. There were other problems, too, including staff who falsely reported checking in on patients.

Michigan Public Radio reporter Jake Neher says the report also found that the privately-run center was ‘grossly’ understaffed:


There are two Iraq war veterans now serving in the state Legislature.

Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, both took their seats in November 2014, and they’re working hard toward a goal of improving veterans’ affairs here in Michigan.

There's new legislation at the state Capitol that would help protect veterans with service dogs from discrimination.

State Senator David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, served in Iraq and he is sponsoring the bills.

There's a lot of talk about supporting our military veterans as they come home and transition back to civilian life. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency is standing by to help vets in a variety of ways, from employment to benefits and resources to transition assistance.

It’s estimated that in the United States some 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

“It is a tragedy, one that we have to deal with,” Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters said. “In my mind we have a sacred obligation to take care of those who have served us overseas, so we need to address it immediately.”

Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center

Veterans in northern Michigan often have to drive a long way to see their doctors. That’s because official VA hospitals are mostly downstate, like the one in Saginaw.

Congress passed legislation over the summer that was meant to change that temporarily. It pays for more local, private care options for those enrolled in health plans through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

But in Michigan, most veterans don’t qualify under the rules.


Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center

Veterans of northern Michigan spoke out against having to drive long distances for medical care at a hearing on Wednesday in Traverse City.

Veterans are often required to drive to Saginaw – or Ann Arbor – to visit doctors at Veterans Affairs medical centers. But that could soon change for many in the area because of a new federal law.

  With the resignation of Veteran Affairs Head Eric Shinseki, there are ongoing questions about long-term accountability in how the department handles medical care for current and former service members. Last week a bill by northern Michigan Congressman Dan Benishek, designed to add more oversight, made it through the House of Representatives.

Benishek joined us to talk about the legislation, and what he thinks needs to be done to get the VA on the right track. He’s on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Listen to the interview above.

The controversy over long wait times and improper scheduling practices at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics has cost the job of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

It led to an internal VA audit of its health care facilities.

And that has caused the VA to flag three facilities in Michigan for a closer look.

For this conversation, we asked what might be happening at those facilities, and what this means to veterans in Michigan.

We're joined by Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler and Dr. Joe Schwartz, physician and former Republican Congressman from West Michigan. Dr. Schwartz is now a visiting lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

*Listen to the full interview above.