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State veterans agency faces repeated crises

Leaping from crisis to crisis, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs has been dealing with tornadoes, the threatened evacuation of its Lawton disabled veterans home and staff turmoil at its Claremore home for disabled veterans.
by Randy Ellis Modified: June 30, 2013 at 11:00 pm •  Published: June 30, 2013

The switch is supposed to transfer power to the generator when an outage occurs and transfer power back to the normal power source when power is restored, he said. Water got in the system and it wouldn't switch back from the generator to normal power, he said.

Rooms got a little warm, more than 200 fans were deployed, health officials were called out and plans were discussed to evacuate, if necessary, Wilkerson said.

However, the center never totally lost power and electricians were able to wire around the switch and restore normal power four days later, providing at least a temporary solution, he said.

The Claremore Veterans Center also has had its problems.

A physician's assistant was charged with second-degree murder and caretaker abuse after two residents died there last year — one after being scalded in a whirlpool and the other after not being taken to a hospital for several hours after having a stroke.

Tim Potteiger took over as administrator at the Claremore Veterans Center about six months ago and told commissioners some staff members are upset by changes he has made to try to instill accountability and improve things for the veteran residents.

“We have probably four RNs (registered nurses) right now on family leave because they're not liking the changes that we're doing,” he said. “But we're going to win in the end. We've got a good core there.”

Commissioner Curtis “Doc” Bohlman, who is leaving the commission, used his parting speech to take a shot at the decision to ban smoking in the veterans' centers.

“I would vote against taking away the smokes a hundred more times if I could,” Bohlman said.

The centers have adequate ventilation, smoking rooms and outdoor smoking areas so that the smoke poses no threat to nonsmokers, he said.

Executive Director John McReynolds said there are 250 to 260 smokers in the centers.

“We're pursuing smoking cessation classes aggressively at the centers,” he said.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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