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Veterans’ home bills spark concerns about privatizing care


Changes could be in store for Michigan’s veterans’ services. 

A House and Senate joint committee heard testimony Monday about a package of bills that would create a new Michigan Veterans’ Facility Authority. The Authority would oversee new veteran facilities, and eventually, lawmakers hope, the entire Michigan Veteran Health System would go under the umbrella of the authority.

The legislation comes after an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last February revealed persistent issues like staffing shortages and not following through on abuse complaints.

State Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage),is the chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security committee. She said the legislation likely still has a ways to go.

“We want to make sure that if we were to move this forward, this is really going to be about ensuring long-term quality care for our veterans,” she said. “So we’re in no rush to move it.”

One of the concerns about care for the veterans is allowing privatization of staff at the facilities.

Mark Williams is with a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents workers at the veterans’ home in Grand Rapids. He said privatizing staff could lead to poor care.

“That consistent quality care is something that you can’t put a price tag on. You can’t diminish in any way,” he said. “Those things are important.... When I find things about lists quality of care farther down the list, that bothers me.”

Sen. O’Brien said this concern is on the list of things she will be looking into before a committee vote. 


“I’m open to any that’s going to make sure we have quality care workers,” she said. “So there were a lot of ideas thrown out today. I’ve made a lot of notes, wrote down a lot more questions I have, that will be one of them I’ll be looking into.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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