Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs on Tuesday heard from the key players in the debate about problems surrounding the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA). Those presenting included the Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs, retired Major General Rita Aragon; Oklahoma War Veterans Commission Chairman Rich Putman; Oklahoma War Veterans Commission Vice Chair Jerry Riley, ODVA Acting Deputy Director Roy Griffith, and ODVA Interim Executive Director John McReynolds.
Committee Vice Chair, Sen. Frank Simpson, requested the study to find solutions to problems being reported about the ODVA’s seven state veterans' centers.
“Our ultimate goal is to strengthen ODVA so that we have the peace of mind of knowing that the needs of our veterans are being met; and when I talk about the needs of our veterans, I’m not talking only about our veterans that are in the centers. There are many other aspects of the Department of Veteran Affairs that we need to focus on also and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “We’re going to look at meeting the needs of this broad spectrum of veterans in Oklahoma.”
During the meeting, committee members and guests discussed administrative issues including the structure and responsibilities of the ODVA and the War Veterans Commission as well as the role of the War Veterans Commission and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in relation to oversight of the ODVA.
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 27. An agenda with time and location will be released closer to the meeting. The committee will be looking at the operational level of the state veterans’ centers including staffing and pay, training of employees and other issues dealing with patient care and reports of neglect and abuse at the centers.
These meetings are public so veterans or those concerned about veterans affairs are encouraged to attend. Streaming audio will also be available on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov.