Veterans Affairs needs to be reformed

Modified: March 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm •  Published: March 20, 2013
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Recent news reports reveal that state Sen. Frank Simpson's bill for reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the seven homes it operates is running into opposition in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The legislation passed the Senate easily. The reform bills are in response to months of legislative hearings about news reports of death, rape, abuse and neglect at the veterans homes operated by the ODVA. I gave testimony at those committee meetings regarding my eight years experience as a disabled veteran living with the ODVA and at the Norman Veterans Center. My message: Return the ODVA and its seven veterans homes to the Oklahoma Health Department's survey process.

In 2003, ODVA leadership had the Legislature remove the vet homes from the state Health Department's survey process. The 10 years of self-rule is a failure. Under ODVA self-rule, veterans and their families do not have laws that protect the residents like the ones used by the Health Department. Also, there is not an appeal organization with the force of law like the Health Department. Senate Bill 629 offers meaningful reform of the ODVA and its seven veterans homes.

Mike Simmons, Norman