The Norman Transcript

October 20, 2013

Sen. Simpson, legislature seeking solutions to problems facing veterans centers

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Recurring problems at the Norman Veterans Center and the other half-dozen centers across the state will be aired Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Sen. Frank Simpson has called an all-day meeting to explore high turnover rates among staff, low salaries and inadequate training of nurses. 

 The centers have endured a large number of vacancies, while beginning pay for a nurse caretaker is just under $11 per hour.  These centers have to be manned 24 hours a day, which contributes to high turnover of staff.

The legislators also are expected to discuss perceived problems with the War Veterans Commission that is charged with regulating the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs state agency and the seven centers.

Simpson of Ardmore said the war commission has not taken an active role in dealing with the problems.

An audit ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin last year asserted that the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs showed a lack of support for employees at the centers. 

Fallin replaced commissioners on the governing board last year, but problems have persisted.

Simpson said the war commission is

dominated by veterans who represent the American Legion, while other veterans groups are not well represented. 

The joint House-Senate veterans committee meeting at the state Capitol on Tuesday will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  in Room 419-C, which is  on the fourth floor of the Capitol.  The Capitol is located at 2300 North Lincoln in Oklahoma City.

Other legislators working on veterans’ center problems include Rep. Pat Ownbey of Ardmore and Rep. Tommy Hardin of Madill.

The centers include the one in Norman others at Ardmore, Claremore, Clinton, Lawton, Sulphur and Talihina.