Problems at the veterans centers in the past three years include the scalding of an 85-year-old veteran, Jay Minter, in a whirlpool last year at Claremore Veterans Center; he later died. The center was found to be understaffed and had problems such as disorganized mealtimes and dangerously crowded hallways.
Other problems include the Ardmore Veterans Center failing to protect five residents from sexual abuse by an employee in 2010 and keeping the employee at work despite a recommendation that he be fired. A 2010 report shows that a resident died at the Ardmore Veterans Center after not receiving proper treatment.
At the Norman center, multiple residents developed pressure sores. Relief devices were not provided, and staff could not identify residents at risk.
After Minter's death in May, a Senate panel headed by Sen. Frank Simpson heard from family members of other veterans who described abuse within the facilities. The panel also heard from veterans center employees who described a culture of intimidation that they said was intended to keep a facility's problems quiet.
Simpson, the author of SB 629, said he wanted to review the amendments further, but he had no immediate objection.
He said he liked the idea of having inspectors assigned solely to the veterans centers.
“You could develop an inspection team that was really trained and understood inspecting a veterans center, which in some aspects can be a little bit different in respect to a nursing home,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “They could also develop a track record of knowing what to look for at certain centers based upon their history with those centers.”
Simpson said the he hopes the additional cost of nearly $1 million to implement the measure doesn't alarm legislative leaders crafting the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“My question to them would be, what kind of a price tag do you put on the welfare of veterans in our veterans centers?” he said. “I think that's a good investment.”