Michigan gets new housing for veterans
Michigan legislators have passed new legislation that will fund two new veterans care facilities in Detroit and Grand Rapids, according to MLive. Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, a Republican, sponsored Senate Bill 1100, the centerpiece of the four-part legislative package giving state officials the authority and capital they need to construct the sites.
"Our veterans have served our nation valiantly and deserve the best possible care," Hildenbrand told the publication. "This legislation will modernize the way our veterans homes operate and transform them into facilities that can quickly and easily adapt to the ever-changing nature of long-term care services."
The senator's legislation allows for the creation of an autonomous regulatory body within Michigan's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), one local ABC affiliate reported. This work group will have the authority to allocate funding, purchase property and enforce local, state and federal compliance standards. On Jan. 11, Gov. Rick Snyder signed SB 1100 and its three counterparts into law.
New facilities coming to Michigan
Building new facilities in Detroit and Grand Rapids will be the first task for the freshly formed body. Each site will cover roughly 132,000 square feet and include 120 beds, residential units and expansive common spaces. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2018 and end in August 2019. Together, the buildings carry a total price tag of $108 million, including almost $66 million in federal funding. State officials must apply for the latter before work can begin in earnest.
An answer to statewide concerns
In recent years, the DMVA has faced criticism for its treatment of Michigan veterans. In February of last year, state auditors discovered that employees at the Grand Rapids Home, a clinic for ailing former service members, failed to follow up on allegations of abuse and neglect and issue prescriptions in a timely fashion. Additionally, the facility suffered from crippling staffing shortages that went unaddressed.
Jeff Barnes, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, a subdivision of the DMVA responsible for coordinating benefits for former service members, resigned in the wake of the audit, the Detroit Free Press reported. In the months following Barnes' departure, Michigan legislators developed an exhaustive strategy to improve veterans facilities and services statewide. This strategy includes the provisions in SB 1100 and other overarching reforms.
Hildenbrand and his colleagues in the Michigan legislature hope to meet the April deadline for federal funding and start improvements as soon as possible.