Gov. Rick Snyder: Veterans at Grand Rapids Home deserve higher standards of care

Contact: Suzanne Thelen, MVAA, 517-331-3843
Agency: Military and Veterans Affairs

February 19, 2016

Leadership changes add to efforts since October to address audit concerns

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Residents at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and their families deserve higher standards of care, Gov. Rick Snyder said today, and changes are being made to address concerns released in a report today by the Office of the Auditor General.

Snyder said the audit findings are “deeply troubling” and that veterans deserve the best care that the state can provide.

Snyder accepted the resignation of Jeff Barnes, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, which oversees the Michigan Veteran Health System that supervises the home. Barnes will be reassigned under Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, adjutant general and director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The department oversees MVAA.
“Jeff is passionate about helping his fellow veterans,” Snyder said. “I know he is as troubled by these findings as I am. A new leadership team is in place, which I am relying on to address the audit.”
James Robert Redford of East Grand Rapids, chief legal counsel to the governor, has been named interim director.
The audit focused on medical administration, member care documentation, handling of complaints and financial management. It also addressed ongoing staffing shortages and non-narcotic pharmaceutical controls.
“I want to assure families that their veterans are getting improved quality of care. We have made major changes since October, including replacing top leadership who were not doing their jobs properly,” Vadnais said.
“I apologize to any veterans that their quality of care was below standard. These findings are unacceptable, and we’re committed to fixing the problems highlighted in the report.”
Vadnais noted the new leadership has already started making changes to improve the home’s care and financial practices, and praised the work of Leslie Shanlian, an experienced health care executive brought in last fall to improve care at the veterans home.
The audit measured the performance of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans from Oct.1, 2013 through August 31, 2015.
With financial support from the legislature, the Grand Rapids Homes for Veterans in 2014 started modernizing antiquated record-keeping systems, some in place since the late 1980s. It has started implementing electronic medical records and other updates to document residents’ activities and medications and produce accurate billing statements.

The home also installed 130 security cameras to monitor activities, and staffing changes in the business and nursing departments have been set in place.
In September 2015, the Michigan Veteran Health System was launched, combining the administration of the Grand Rapids and Marquette veterans homes to create efficiencies, focus on patient-centered care and obtain certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
MVAA in October appointed Shanlian to become CEO of the MVHS. She is a 20-year veteran health care administrator with experience in nursing home administration and CMS certification.  She has assembled a strong team and restructured nursing and financial services to improve care, records keeping and management of veterans’ funds.
Among her changes, the home has revised its complaint policy to ensure resident issues are investigated and addressed quickly. Shanlian also has engaged the services of a state ombudsman, who provides third-party oversight.
“While it used to take weeks to process complaints, we can now respond within 72 hours with an initial investigative report,” said Shanlian. “The use of interdisciplinary teams to investigate and access to the ombudsman have expedited the process and resulted in faster corrective measures.”
Contracted staffing shortages were identified among the audit findings. MVAA has worked with contractor J2S to resolve those issues.
Additionally, worker shifts have been realigned to ensure enough staffing during high-demand times, such as showering and hygiene.
Snyder created MVAA in 2013 to coordinate veterans services and programs. 
MVAA has established a veteran resource service center using the 211 system that provides 24/7 case management and wrap-around care for veterans and their families. MVAA has also been instrumental in decreasing the veteran unemployment rate from a high of 34 percent to single digits; engaging more than 50 Michigan businesses in a pledge to hire as many as 1,000 veterans this year.
Barnes served nearly 10 years as an armored cavalry officer in the U.S. Army, including tours in Korea and the Balkans, and two tours in Iraq. His resignation is effective today.
Redford served 28 years in the U.S. Navy and retired as a captain in 2012.  He was a military trial judge for five years in the U.S. Navy Reserves and had three tours as a commanding officer, of the Navy Reserve Trial Judiciary, the Reserve Navy Legal Service Office and the civil litigation unit in Washington D.C.

He received the Legion of Merit, six Navy and Marine Corps commendation medals and two Navy Achievement medals. He was a federal prosecutor for eight years before becoming a partner in the Plunkett & Cooney law firm in Grand Rapids. He was elected as a Kent County Circuit Court judge in 2002, and then joined the Snyder administration in 2014.

“This is a top priority. I’m assigning one of my top-inner circle people and putting him in charge of the agency,” Snyder said. “Jim’s military experience and compassion for fellow veterans make him the best choice to address these issues.”