The following is a statement issued Tuesday following the third and final meeting of the Senate Veterans Committee’s interim study of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The meeting focused on the results of the audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs that was requested by the Governor earlier this year, specifically the structure, duties, training and responsibilities of the War Veterans Commission.
“Today we focused on the War Veterans Commission. The current construction of the commission is limited to three veterans groups – the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Disabled Veterans, which provide nominees for the commission. Unfortunately, those groups make up less than 15 percent of the veterans population within the State of Oklahoma. Our goal was to look at how we can broaden representation so that the commission reflects the demographics of veterans in the state.
One of the ideas we talked about today was reorganizing the commission so that there are more groups represented, and even offering some at-large appointments so the Governor will have the ability to go outside the veterans groups and find candidates or nominees for the commission who may not necessarily be members of those groups. It would allow her to look at some professional expertise that might lend itself well to better management of the commission - for example, someone with some financial management background or a physician who specializes in geriatric care.
We’re trying to broaden representation with the goal of making sure that all veterans in the state know that their needs and those of their families are known by the commission. We want to ensure that every veteran feels that their concerns and interests are being represented in the commission. In the past, it has been kind of exclusive, and our goal is to make the commission more inclusive than it has been in years past.
We have seen the face of the Department of Veterans Affairs change dramatically in the last two years but there is still work to be done. I’m really proud of the work that has been accomplished and I commend the leadership at ODVA for making sure those things happened but there is still progress we can make. I think reorganization of the commission so that more veterans feel included in the process will be a step in the right direction.”