Current Weather
The Spy FM

Oklahoma’s veterans centers could face increased oversight

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
October 25, 2012

Click here to download audio

After a series of reports by the Journal Record exposed problems of abuse and neglect at the state’s veterans centers, elected officials started to pay attention to the issues.

M. Scott Carter first broke the story, and I talked with him Wednesday.

Click above for the full conversation. Below, some of the highlights.


Was this widespread?

“There have been incidents of abuse and neglect at all of them at some time or another. The big problem centers were the ones such as Ardmore and Norman and Claremore, and to a lesser extent, Lawton….it’s a systemwide problem.”

Did state legislators fully consider consequences of ending unannounced expectations in 2003?

“No, I don’t think they did. I think they thought the federal inspections would be sufficient. The former head of the ODVA at the time, a guy by the name of Phil Driskill had been in the agency for several years  and was very skilled at lobbying the Legislature. And he and Roy Griffin, the head of the Talihina Veterans Center, they went door to door buttonholing these guys telling them this was a way to save money, and we don’t need all this.”

Inspections only cost $150,000 a year for the state?

“That was what the Health Department guy said at the time Wednesday. He said that would be the estimated cost. Now [Mark Newman] said that was a conservative estimate…the most recent abuse and neglect case the state settled was for the maximum amount allowed under the Tort Claim Act which was $175,000. So they could spend $150 up front and prevent settlements, and prevent these problems, or make a big step towards preventing these problems, instead of paying them out in legal fees.”

Could inspections have stopped abuse?

“State inspections would be surprise inspections…it’s a much more accurate picture of what’s going on and how the staffing levels are, and the training level of staff, and how residents are being treated and cared for.”

Who gets blame?

“There’s plenty of blame to go around. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been managed like, it was managed by its former executive directors as a little fiefdom, where the big deal was we take care of our own, if there’s a problem, it doesn’t become public…and the War Veterans Commission was pretty much a rubber stamp for whatever the administrative offices wanted to do. 

“But it’s not the only place where blame lies. Blame also lies a lot with the Legislature, because the Legislature…really didn’t look into the function and management of the ODVA and then they exempted them from state inspections in 2003, which set them up to fail big time.”

How will legislators fix the situation?

“I talked to state Senator Kim David of Porter…one of the first things they’re going to do is place the veterans centers and the veterans system back under some type of state inspection. It may not be purely the Health Department, but it will be an outside agency that comes in and does a review, an unannounced examination of each long term care facility and how its functioning.”

“I also would not be surprised to see some type of free standing, almost like an Inspector General’s office that has criminal investigators in it.”

One Response to “Oklahoma’s veterans centers could face increased oversight”

  1. Guest says:

    It's Sen. Kim David of Porter, not Kim Perry. Also, I suspect the man from the Oklahoma State Department of Health was Mark Newman, not Newsom.

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center