By Gary Kodaseet & Al Patrick
U.S. Veterans and AARP Volunteers
We have known the honor of serving in the United States Military. The Oklahoma soldiers that served alongside us and those that have come after us in all branches of the U.S. military have helped protect our freedoms at all costs across the world.
Now – thanks to a bill recently signed by Governor Mary Fallin – we can protect Oklahoma service men and women who live in our state-operated veterans centers.
Senate Bill 629 by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Tommy Hardin will improve oversight of Oklahoma’s seven, state-operated veterans centers. This bill, which will become law later this year, will protect more than 1,400 veterans and war heroes who live in these centers from the deplorable incidents of abuse and neglect reported last year by the media.
Among provisions of the new law are:
- All veterans centers will be required to report suspected crimes to local law enforcement;
- The Oklahoma Department of Health will be required to conduct at least one unannounced inspection of each veterans center every year and report the results of its inspections to the Governor, Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the State Senate;
- These annual inspections will be supplemented by unannounced follow-up inspections and unannounced resident complaint investigations; and
- Only trained, certified nurse aides may be used in all veterans centers.
The effort to protect our veterans and improve the quality of life in state veterans centers came as a result of the leadership of Senator Simpson and Representative Hardin. We want to thank them for their leadership and applaud Governor Fallin for signing the bill into law and her efforts to secure passage of these much-needed reforms.
This bill was a top legislative priority for AARP Oklahoma because we believe it is important to make sure Oklahoma’s most frail and vulnerable residents, many of whom are veterans, are protected from abuse and neglect. We also want to applaud other organizations that supported SB 629 including the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, the Oklahoma Aging Partnership, the Oklahoma Alliance on Aging, the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature, the Oklahoma State Council on Aging and many other resident advocates.
Working together we were able to give Oklahoma veterans the best salute possible: increased protections and safety.
(Gary Kodaseet, who lives in Oklahoma City, served in the U.S. Marines from 1954-1958 and Al Patrick, who lives in Norman, served in the U.S. Army from 1958-1980. Both are volunteers for AARP Oklahoma.)