Veterans panel opposes changes in duties, director
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 7:35 AM
CLAREMORE - The Oklahoma War Veterans Commission voted on Friday to oppose legislation that would give the governor the power to appoint the director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and make the commissioners responsible for the state's seven veterans centers.
Commissioner Tommy Sellers said incoming governors might decide to change directors, leading to instability in the organization.
"If it's passed, we politicize the position," he said.
The commission should oversee the department, which oversees the veterans centers, Sellers said. The commission should not be directly responsible for the operation of the centers, he added.
The commission also voted to oppose a bill that would prohibit smoking at all state buildings. The governor has issued an executive order implementing that ban, but veterans centers received an exemption.
Veterans should be encouraged not to smoke, but those who can't stop should be allowed, commissioners said.
Sellers said it's not a good idea to take cigarettes away from veterans who once received them as part of their rations.
"To me, it's just immoral to do something like that," he said.
Commissioners also discussed a proposed bill to have the Oklahoma State Department of Health conduct inspections of the veterans centers as they did before 2003.
They voted to take no issue with the bill provided it reflects that any federal inspection laws would supersede state laws.
Roy Griffith, director of the Talihina Veterans Center, said he opposed the bill and that the money required for the health department inspections would be better spent elsewhere.
The state and federal inspection requirements are often in conflict and create confusion, Griffith said. The federal inspections are thorough, but the health department inspections would add any oversight against patient abuse, he noted.
"I just really don't think it's a good idea," he said.
Original Print Headline: Veterans panel opposes law changes
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Commission member Thomas Howell asks a question during a meeting of the Oklahoma War Veterans Commission on Friday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Tommy Sellers: He said the change would make the director's position political