The Norman Transcript

Letters

April 20, 2014

Reform is necessary

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Last year, the legislature passed laws reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which was a good start, but more is needed. Recent media reports have revealed that the ODVA employs M.D. and D.O. licensing board-disciplined doctors at many of the seven veterans centers it operates in the state. These doctors have been found guilty of repeated substance abuse, sexual misconduct and violations of federal prescription laws, to name a few. The ODVA leadership uses these doctors because they’re cheap and controllable. Oklahoma’s veterans deserve the best doctors, not the cheapest. The legislature should stop this shameful ODVA policy and provide funding for veterans homes physician salaries that are more competitive in the market, so veterans have a higher caliber of doctors.

Further, the veterans homes are threatened with a 5 percent budget cut. The Oklahoma Veterans Council opposes this, citing that medical supply costs have risen 18 percent in the last year alone. The seven veterans centers should be exempted from these state agency budget cuts. Moreover, the veterans centers direct-care staff needs to get a salary increase to remedy the rampant staff shortages that continue to plague the veterans homes. The state auditor reported last year that veterans homes staff only make 40 percent of what similar positions earn in states surrounding Oklahoma. The veterans homes staff haven’t had a raise in eight years.

Lastly, the legislature should pass SB 1970 for better veteran representation on the War Veteran Commission. The WVC is the oversight board for the ODVA and the seven state veterans centers. The current commission only represents 15 percent of the veterans in the state.

Call your legislator and tell them to put Oklahoma’s veterans first.

MIKE SIMMONS

Norman

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