Sen. Frank Simpson said another veteran’s death at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina on Tuesday is evidence that the center must be relocated as soon as possible. In January, he filed Senate Bill 544 directing and authorizing the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to relocate the facility to another location that meets the requirements of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as a State Veterans' Home.
“I am absolutely sick to hear about the death of fellow veteran Leonard Smith and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. I have been offered speculation on the cause and manner of death but the investigation is underway and a report is not yet available,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “Unfortunately, another veteran died just four months ago at this center because of neglect by staff, which is why I filed emergency legislation last month to relocate the facility. Something must be done before another life is senselessly lost.”
Simpson noted there are many problems with the facility including the age of the nearly 100 year old building, which does not adequately meet the needs of the patients and is very expensive to maintain. The center also does not have access to good water. However, he explained that staffing is the biggest issue.
“Because of its remote location and a limited labor pool, ODVA has a difficult time adequately staffing the facility. The staffing shortage jeopardizes the safety and welfare of all residents,” said Simpson. “As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs my overwhelming priority is what is in the best interests of our veterans. We must be able to provide top notch facilities and properly staff those facilities so our veterans get the care they need and deserve.”
Simpson said there are currently nearly 30 resident care positions that cannot be filled. He has also received reports of nepotism or family members working for family members, which is in direct violation of state statute.
Being an emergency measure, SB 544 would become law upon passage by the legislature and approval by the governor. The legislative session convenes on Monday.