(NASHVILLE, TN), February 28, 2008 — The Senate State and Local Government Committee considered legislation this week sponsored by Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to expand the state’s Veterans Homes Board in an effort to give the panel more accountability and health care expertise. The Board oversees operations at the state’s veteran’s homes in Humboldt and Murfreesboro. The homes received scathing reviews from the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month.

“There are serious problems at our veterans homes,” said Senator Norris, who servers on the Joint Select Committee on Veterans Affairs. “The report described very disturbing abuse and neglect, including bed sores and untreated ulcers, and death due to starvation. We need to build more expertise and accountability into the Board’s structure.”

The Department of Justice concluded that Tennessee is failing to take care of its veterans and that the treatment violates the constitutional and federal rights of the residents. The report goes on to say that residents are at risk of “significant harm” and gave the state seven weeks to clean up its act. Unless major improvements are made, a federal lawsuit will likely be filed.

State law provides that the Joint Committee has review authority over the Governor’s appointments to the Board. The review process has not been followed in past appointments to the Board.

Under present law, the board consists of 10 members: nine honorably discharged veterans, appointed by the governor, from nationally chartered service organizations that have departments in Tennessee and the commissioner of veteran’s affairs as an ex officio member. The Norris’ bill as amended increases the membership from 10 to 13 by adding citizens with practical clinical experience and administrative experience in nursing homes.

The bill also builds in reporting and accountability requirements to the legislature’s State & Local Governments Committee, which has oversight over the budget of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the Joint Select Committee on Veterans Affairs. It requires the board to report annually regarding issues and recommendations to improve state veterans’ homes and to notify lawmakers of potential problems in the nursing homes.

“Something must be done,” Norris added. “There are lives at stake. These are the heroes who carried our flag into battle. They have not failed us and we must not fail them.”

###

Comments are closed.