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State audit criticizes pay, oversight at Oklahoma's veterans centers

BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm •  Published: April 17, 2013

Employees at Oklahoma nursing homes for veterans work long shifts, with little pay and little guidance, contributing to serious problems with patient care, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

Recent problems include the scalding death of a veteran housed at a long-term care center in Claremore.

The audit said the Veterans Affairs Department shows a general lack of support for employees and said the department's oversight board hasn't performed well.

“These deficiencies in essential services hardly seem a suitable way to repay those who have sacrificed to protect the rest of us and will likely spend the remainder of their lives in such conditions,” said Gary Jones, state auditor & inspector.

Gov. Mary Fallin requested the department's operations and finances be audited in August amid reports of abuse and mistreatment at some of its seven nursing centers.

On Wednesday, she called the report's findings “unacceptable” and “disturbing” and asked state lawmakers to give the governor's office full authority to appoint the department's executive director, currently chosen by the War Veterans Commission.

Fallin replaced all but one member of the commission in May 2012, and the commission hired John McReynolds to replace outgoing executive director Martha Spear in December.

Fallin also called on the commission to reflect more accurately the makeup of the state's veterans.

“It is my hope these issues can be addressed in the future as part of a rethinking of how the ODVA does business and delivers its services to veterans,” Fallin said.

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