Two weeks ago a news story broke which alleged patient abuse and neglect at some of our State Veterans Centers. If these allegations are true then they are shocking and saddening, but currently they are only allegations. As Vice-Chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, and based on the nature of the charges, I felt it was my duty to ask for an interim study to look into these allegations. They could not go unanswered. If left unanswered it would cast a shadow of doubt over the entire department.
Included in the study will be a full assessment of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) and the seven Veterans Centers in the system. Our only goal is to insure that the needs of our veterans are being met and to address any concerns that the families of those veterans may have.
Last year, a Senate Task Force looked into the structure of the War Veterans Commission. The War Veterans Commission is charged with the oversight of ODVA. The task force was unable to come to any conclusive decision on the reorganization of the commission.
This study will again look at the make-up of the commission. We will look at how we can help the commission improve their oversight as well as see how we can make the membership of the commission more inclusive of veterans. We will also be looking at the qualifications and duties of the Director of ODVA and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
I have worked closely with ODVA for several years. I’m a veteran myself, which is why this issue is so important to me. I take seriously anything that tarnishes their image. Are their bad apples in their organization? Of course there are. Any organization the size of ODVA is going to have some bad actors. Our goal will be to help ODVA identify those individuals. So let’s not paint with too broad a brush - 99.9% of the employees at ODVA are dedicated and hardworking individuals. Many have a special love for veterans, which is why they do the work they do.
If you have information you’d like to share with me you may call my office at 405-521-5607, email me at email@example.com or see me personally. I want to know your story. Whether you have concerns, suggestions or praise, let me know. The more information we have, the better.
This will not be a witch hunt, and will not become a political football. This study’s goal will be to see how we can help strengthen ODVA to insure our veterans receive the care they deserve and to give families the peace of mind of knowing that their love ones’ needs are being met.
Sen. Frank Simpson
Senate District 14
Vice Chair of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee
Served 26 years in the U.S. Navy, retired in 1988