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February 1, 2013

Sen. disappointed in ODVA testimony

NORMAN — The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs was among seven state agencies to testify before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services during the committee’s second budget and performance hearing Thursday. 

Sen. Frank Simpson said he was greatly disappointed by the changes made by ODVA to address problems discovered within the agency and at the state’s seven veteran centers during last year’s interim study.

ODVA Executive Director John McReynolds testified that he believed the agency’s problems stemmed from a lack of leadership, so they had decided to promote a handful of individuals into leadership positions and raise administrative salaries.  

“I am very disappointed in the proposal ODVA made during our Senate budget meeting. The entire focus of their presentation was on adding administrative positions and increasing the salaries of upper management,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “Nowhere in their presentation did I see anything that would have a positive impact on the care our veterans receive in our state centers.”

The Senate Veterans Committee Chair also was appalled to learn that the ODVA has one of the worst records among all state agencies when it comes to employing veterans. Of ODVA’s approximately 2,100 employees, only 19 service officer positions are required to be veterans.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon said the unemployment rate of veterans compared to civilians is three to one. She said she knows many veterans who are certified health care professionals looking for employment, but they are not being made aware of the available jobs within ODVA. 

The documents provided to the Senate committee are available on the website, appropriations.oksenate.gov, by selecting “Health and Human Services,” then “Department of Veterans Affairs.”

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