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Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Department seeks money to increase administrators pay

The Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Department is seeking more than $250,000 in new money next year to pay for upping the salaries of five administrators.

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: January 28, 2013 at 11:28 pm •  Published: January 29, 2013

“We anticipate that to continue,” McReynolds said.

The agency’s budget calls for an increase of about $1.6 million in federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year.

The restructuring plan also calls for putting four regional directors in place. Each would be paid an annual salary of $50,000; the agency is seeking $71,181 in new state dollars to pay for the increase.

The restructuring comes as the Veterans Affairs Department has come under scrutiny after allegations were made that veterans at some of the centers were mistreated.

Commissioners in late July accepted the retirement of Martha Spear, who had served the past several years as executive director of the Veterans Affairs Department. Commissioners named McReynolds, who, who retired five years ago as administrator of the Lawton Veterans Center, as interim executive director. Gov. Mary Fallin last year replaced eight of the nine commissioners on the board that oversees the agency.

An 85-year-old veteran was scalded to death in May in a whirlpool at Claremore Veterans Center. An internal investigation identified willful negligence and abuse by one nurse and neglect by three additional employees.

The state Veterans Affairs Department’s total budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, is $132 million. State appropriations make up 27 percent of its budget, and 21 percent, or $27 million, comes from its revolving fund, which comes from monthly maintenance charges paid by residents at the veterans centers.

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