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State issues pink slips to 144 nursing assistants at 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.'

This week nearly 150 nursing assistants are getting laid off at a state-run home for veterans.

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two state-run hospitals for veterans in Michigan. More than 700 veterans are housed there.

“It’s a continuation of a process that we started back in October 2011,” said Suzanne Thelen, Public Information Officer for Michigan’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Governor Rick Snyder approved privatizing the nursing assistant positions to save the state $4 million a year. Laundry and security services at the home are also provided by private companies.

One veteran sued, alleging he and fellow residents faced “significant injury”, “abuse and neglect at the hands of a private company.” But that case was dismissed late last month. Layoff notices went out Tuesday morning.

The state says it’s helping the nursing assistants find new jobs.

“We actually have a designated rapid response team from a workforce development agency that’s going to work specifically with this group of employees at the Grand Rapids home,” Thelen said. Workers will be able to apply for their former jobs with the new company.

Living at the home is voluntary. The court says if veterans feel they’re getting sub-standard care they’re free to leave.

The court also said allegations of inadequate care from a few nursing assistants doesn’t mean they all provide inadequate care.

Calls and emails to the workers union requesting comment were not returned.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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