Claremore Daily Progress

February 14, 2013

Searching for Answers: VA Nursing Director resigns, Minter wants justice

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — The resignation of the Claremore Veterans Center’s Director of Nursing, Cindy Schnell, is opening doors of opportunity for the Veterans Administration.

The VA will now be able to immediately hire a new director of nursing for the Claremore facility, according to Veterans Administration Public Information Officer Shane Faulkner.
Last October, the center was investigated after the death of Jay Minter, 85, of Claremore.
Minter was severely burned in a whirlpool bath at the facility.
District Attorney Janice Steidley declined to file any charges in the case involving several employees of the Claremore Veterans Center.
“I called Janice Steidley to see where the case was,” said Frances Minter. 
Steidley told Frances Minter that the local office could not prosecute without more evidence.
Frances Minter continues to look for answers in the case and has questions about why the people responsible were not brought to justice.
A follow-up investigation blamed the death on negligence and several other violations.
No criminal charges have been filed to date and several of the employees involved have been permitted to resign.
Family members of Minter and other veterans testified before the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs committee, telling lawmakers of alleged incidences of abuse, neglect and retaliation against their loved ones.
Seventeen employees with the Claremore Veterans Center testified before the committee that their work environment was one of intimidation and threats. Employees said the facility was understaffed to the point that employees lied on patient charts as to the quality of care veterans received.
Schnell will use comp time and annual leave, making her effective date of resignation June 25, 2013, Faulkner said. 
Frances Minter settled her tort claim with the State of Oklahoma last fall.
She received $175,000 from her claim, but is clearly more interested in holding someone responsible for the “tragedy.”
“It has been a nightmare and even though we have made an agreement to settle I still want to see if we can get some things straightened out for our Veterans,” Frances Minter said. “I don’t want them [Veteran’s Center] operating in secrecy anymore.”
 “There’s no amount of money that can compensate for my husband’s life,” Frances Minter said. “It’s terrible what happened to him.” 
Although multiple employees with the Veteran’s Center in Claremore and the State Department of Veteran Affairs have been terminated or resigned, no real accountability has been established, she added.