OKLAHOMA CITY — A proposal to privatize the state’s seven veterans centers does not appear to have much support.
Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Joel Kintsel said a few weeks ago that Gov. Kevin Stitt wanted him to privatize the homes.
Kate Vesper, a spokeswoman for Stitt, did not respond to two requests for comment about privatization.
But Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, said he recently spoke to Secretary of State Brian Bingman who said Stitt was not backing privatizing the veterans centers. McDugle is a member of the Veterans Caucus.
The issue was also brought up in a recent lawsuit filed against Stitt concerning the removal of two members from the Oklahoma Veterans Commission.
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Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, a member of the Veterans Caucus, said the issue has been discussed in the past.
West said he could not support privatizing the homes, which have a higher level of care than nursing homes and do not have an income cap.
“I am opposed to the idea personally,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, a Veterans Caucus member.
Dossett said public functions, such as prisons and education, should not be privatized.
Rita Aragon served as secretary of Veterans Affairs under former Gov. Mary Fallin.
She said the seven centers are some of the finest in the nation, adding that she opposes any effort to privatize the facilities.
“I will tell you that veterans take care of veterans better than anybody else,” she said.
The homes are supervised by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
Myles Deering is a former Oklahoma secretary of Veterans Affairs, adjutant general of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director.
He said he did not support privatizing the homes because he believes it would reduce the quality of care.
“The governor hasn’t mentioned or presented anything to the speaker, and the speaker hasn’t heard interest in the topic within the House,” said John Estus, a spokesman for House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.
Likewise, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, has not been approached by Stitt concerning privatizing the homes, said Alex Gerszewski, a Treat spokesman.
If the issue were to arise, Treat would talk to veterans groups and other stakeholders, Gerszewski said.
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“I will tell you that veterans take care of veterans better than anybody else.”
— Rita Aragon, Secretary of Veterans Affairs under former Gov. Mary Fallin