The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 17, 2013

Vote yes on SB 629 for veterans

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Recent news reports tell us that Senator Frank Simpson’s bills for reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the seven homes it operates is running into opposition in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  

The legislation passed the Senate easily.  The reform bills are in response to months of legislative hearings about news reports of death, rape, abuse and neglect at the veterans homes operated by the ODVA  

I gave testimony at those committee meetings regarding my eight years experience as a disabled veteran with the ODVA and the Norman Veterans Center.  My 130 pages of testimony boiled down to two messages:

First, give the direct care staff a significant raise; Second, return the ODVA and its seven veterans homes to the Oklahoma Health Department’s survey process.

In 2003 ODVA leadership talked the legislature into removing the vet homes from the State Health Department’s survey process. The 10 years of self-rule is a failure from this resident’s perspective.  

I’ve learned the hard way that under ODVA self-rule, veterans and their families do not have laws that protect the residents like the ones used by the State  Health Department.  Also, under ODVA self-rule, there is not an appeal organization with the force of law like the State Health Department.  When I was being evicted by the ODVA, my family tried to appeal to the Veterans Administralion and were told “they do not get involved in the day-to-day operations of the homes.”

We were referred back to the ODVA! The annual V.A. inspection is handled by a private company and laughable.  If you file a formal complaint for abuse or neglect, there is no entity to appeal to when you receive an administrator’s written reply stating, “Our investigation does not support your allegations.”

This is why SB629 is so important for meaningful reform of the ODVA and its seven veterans homes.

Call your House of Representative and tell them to vote yes for SB 629.

MIKE SIMMONS

Norman Veterans’ Center resident

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