OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 8, 2018 — Concerned about a decade of drastic funding cuts and declining services for military veterans, Drew Edmondson, gubernatorial candidate and Vietnam veteran, is urging the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to protect the Talihina Veterans’ Center.
Dismayed to learn that the ODVA is supporting a legislative effort to close the Veterans’ Center in Talihina, Edmondson expressed his concern in a letter to Col. Doug Elliott, ODVA deputy director.
“The facility is home to the men and women who live there, and at a time when the center could benefit from stability and leadership, it seems the leadership at our legislature has chosen to leave these veterans behind. This is a dereliction of duty. Oklahomans will not stand for it,” Edmondson’s letter states.
Edmondson, who toured the Talihina Veterans’ Center in November, said the legislature has cut ODVA’s budget by about 25 percent in recent years.
“During that time, the directors of our state’s seven veterans’ centers have struggled to keep up with staffing, facilities maintenance and a growing number of patients requiring their services,” Edmondson said. “While our legislature struggles with partisan gamesmanship and near constant bickering, our veterans suffer from this failure of leadership.”
Edmondson said he recently learned ODVA is supportive of HB 3042, a bill that would authorize the agency to relocate the center in Talihina.
“We should not be uprooting the men and women who live in this facility,” Edmondson said. “We should be investing in their care and their comfort – not looking for ways to burden or inconvenience them, and that’s what a forced move would be.”
Edmondson, a United States Navy veteran who served a tour of duty in Vietnam, also offered strong words for ODVA administrators, should the bill become law.
“If this legislation, HB 3042, passes, I urge you to take no action that would close or ‘move’ the Talihina Veterans’ Center until a new governor takes office next January. That governor may well have a position contrary to this proposal.
“I can assure you that if I am that governor and I find that the Talihina Veterans’ Center has been closed, I will seek to reopen it. And the first place I will look for funding would be the salaries of those responsible for its closure.
“Our veterans have given their best. They have defended us, and now we must stand up for them,” the letter concludes.