Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Testimony: Employees Discouraged from Using Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Hot Line

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Testimony: Employees Discouraged from Using Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Hot Line

Article excerpt

Despite interim hearings by state lawmakers and increased scrutiny of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and its seven veteran centers, incidents of abuse and neglect continue at veterans care facilities, two employees of the Claremore Veterans Center said Tuesday.

Veronica Nadler, a patient care aide, and Rebecca Buchanan, a registered nurse, said problems at the Claremore center continue. The pair testified several weeks ago at an interim hearing held by the Senate's Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

On Tuesday, Nadler and Buchanan said staff members at the center were discouraged from using a hot line established by the ODVA to report suspected cases of abuse.

Nadler said many staff members called the hot line to report incidents.

"But the administration finds out and those employees are questioned about why they called," she said.

Nadler said she was asked by Claremore's former director of nursing Cindy Schnell and assistant administrator Glenda Davenport why she called the hot line.

"They pulled me down to Glenda's office and drilled us," Nadler said. "They wanted to know who called. And they rolled out little threats about calling the hot line."

On Tuesday, committee members focused on the abuse hot line and how it was used.

John McReynolds, ODVA interim executive director, said the hot line's telephone number was posted on the bulletin board of each veterans center.

"It goes right into the office next to me (at ODVA's central office)," he said. "But the number is posted and the employees and the residents have access to that number and they are welcomed to call."

McReynolds said it was the responsibility of every employee of the agency to report abuse.

"That goes right up the chain of command to the administrator," McReynolds said. "In most cases we have investigators assigned to each facility who are trained to conduct lesser investigations. …

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