Claremore Daily Progress

April 17, 2013

Veterans Affairs audit reveals problems

Staff Reports
Special to the Progress

OKLAHOMA CITY —

State Auditor Gary Jones released Wednesday the performance audit report of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
The audit was requested by Governor Mary Fallin in August 2012, following the resignation of former ODVA Executive Director Martha Spears.
The request also came in the wake of the scalding death of a veteran at a Claremore residential care facility and numerous other allegations of patient abuse, neglect and poor quality of care.
“The ODVA exists to serve one of the most revered populations within our state,” said State Auditor Gary Jones. “The five-month review of ODVA identified a high quality of care in selected parts of ODVA’s operations, but many of its practices fall short of the standard of quality expected by its constituents and their families.”
The report identifies inconsistent training, pervasive substandard wages, and disregard by some administrator’s of staff input. These practices have contributed to a problematic work environment where human resources are improperly allocated and undervalued. 
“We found inconsistent policy implementation and insufficient independence in performing internal investigations of alleged misconduct,” Jones said. “The result of the ODVA’s fractured decentralized management structure had the opposite effect of its desired intent to promote accountability.  We believe these issues could have been effectively managed or avoided altogether with appropriate oversight by the War Veterans Commission. Unfortunately, the ODVA’s governing board did not appear fully aware of its own governance responsibilities or conscious of its own deficiencies.”
Looking forward, the report notes that the current Commission appears to have taken some action toward improving its quality of care for veterans, including the recent appointment of a full-time deputy director to oversee daily operations. 
“Our report offers multiple recommendations detailing how the Commission may overcome its institutional challenges to implement consistency and accountability,” Jones said. “These recommendations are intended as a starting point to reform current practices and shift the agency’s current culture of apathy and disengagement. It won’t happen overnight, but it is possible for ODVA to change its current environment and achieve its mission of providing excellent health services to our veterans today and in the years to come. When it comes to the care of our veterans, doing anything less is not justifiable.”
The full performance audit report of ODVA is available online at www.sai.ok.gov.