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State to pay $825,000 to family of man who died at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans was built in 1885 "in response to the needs of Michigan's veterans in the aftermath of the Civil War."

The state will pay out $825,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a resident at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The death happened more than five years ago. Andrew Ball suffered from dementia, and he often would wander at night. One night, in April of 2012, he wandered into the room of another resident, and that resident, who also suffered from dementia, beat him. Ball died from his wounds.

Peter Smit is an attorney who represented Ball’s family in the lawsuit. He says the state should have done more to ensure the safety of all the veterans at the home.

“These people were continually at risk,” Smit says. “And our vets just deserve better than that.”

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans has a long history of complaints from residents. In 2016, an audit by the state found continued problems with staffing at the facility, which led to worse care for residents.

Michigan’s director of veteran’s affairs resigned after the audit was published. As Michigan Radio reported at the time:

An audit released Friday morning said workers at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans falsely claimed they were checking on patients, failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, and took too long to fill prescriptions. [Governor Rick] Snyder says the audit findings are "deeply troubling."

Smit said he hopes the financial cost from the Ball family’s lawsuit will get the attention of state leaders, and ensure that other veterans get better care. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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