On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs held its fourth and final meeting studying the state’s seven veterans’ centers. Sen. Frank Simpson, who requested the study, said he was pleased by the insight gained from veterans, their families, center staff and members of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the War Veterans Commission and the many others who testified at the meetings.
“This could be a turning point in ODVA. Our goal from the beginning was to make ODVA stronger. I know some of the things that we heard shared with us in the meetings were painful to hear,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “We’ve got a good foundation to start working from. I’m encouraged with our new War Veterans Commission and as proactive as they are in ensuring that ODVA is made a better organization; and I hope out of all of this we end up with an ODVA that is stronger and better able to meet the needs of our veterans.”
Several people testified Tuesday including Susan Early, daughter of Jack King a resident at the Claremore Veterans Center; Thomas Sanders, Ombudsman Volunteer at the Clinton Veterans Center; Esther Houser, State Long Term Care Ombudsman in DHS’ Aging Services Division; Mark Newman, Oklahoma Department of Health; Sterling Zearly, OPEA; Regina McCracken, Ardmore Veterans Center Administrator; War Veterans Commissioner Tom Sellers; Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon; and John McReynolds, ODVA Interim Director.
“This by no stretch of the imagination is the end of our study. This is really just the beginning of what we hope will be a relationship with ODVA with the goal being working together so we can strengthen ODVA in order to make sure that our veterans are receiving the best care they can possibly receive,” said Simpson, Vice Chair of the Senate Veterans Committee.
Since the interim study began, the new members of the War Veterans Commission have been diligently working to address some of the concerns raised by veterans and their families as well as the staff at the veterans’ centers. The commission has implemented a number of improvements since the study began in the areas of personnel, facilities, training and claims processing. These improvements can be viewed on the Senate website under Committees and Interim Studies.
All materials provided by the other presenters are also available on the Senate website.
“This was a tremendously successful interim study and our committee learned a lot about the ODVA and the veterans’ centers. I want to thank everyone who took the time to come speak to our committee,” said Simpson. “Thanks to their testimony we’ll now be able to file legislation to address some very important issues within ODVA and ultimately improve services for our veterans.”
Senators have until Friday, December 14th to request bills to address other areas of concern raised throughout the study.