Greitens defends handling of veterans' home, slams senators
By SUMMER BALLENTINE
Nov. 03, 2017
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday defended his administration's response to allegations against the St. Louis Veterans Home, telling the state's two U.S. senators in a letter that he doesn't "need more meaningless letters from career politicians."
The Republican governor wrote to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill one day after the Missouri Department of Public Safety launched a new investigation of the home. The senators were among several politicians who called for a review after staff, patients and their families met in the St. Louis area this past week to publicly complain about treatment of veterans at the home.
There were allegations of low morale, medication issues and neglect at the facility. St. Louis-area resident Jim Luebbert told The Associated Press that he found his father — a patient at the home — at different times dehydrated, covered in his own feces and suffering from a bed sore. His father died in August.
"This isn't just about our dad," Luebbert said. "This is about the guys that are still there and the future guys. Something has to be done."
Greitens' letter mocked the senators for their "recent interest" in the issue, adding "it's good to see some signs of life out of Congress."
McCaskill's spokesman, John LaBombard, pointed out that the home is run by the state, not the federal government, and said in a statement that Greitens "should toughen up, accept the criticism, and fix it."
Blunt said he takes concerns raised by veterans and their families seriously and agreed with Greitens that the allegations are "deeply disturbing."
"I want our state and the governor to be successful, and any advice I have for him is always given with that in mind," Blunt said in a statement.
St. Louis Veterans Home Administrator Rolando Carter previously told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that most complaints were "very minor in nature" and said steps have been taken to address concerns, including daily checkups on veterans by nurses and administrators and the addition of a guest service director. So far, several reviews have not uncovered any wrongdoing.
The administrator didn't immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment Thursday.
The governor's office first received complaints about the St. Louis Veterans Home in July, and Greitens directed the Missouri Veterans Commission — a state board of gubernatorial appointees who oversee veterans' services — to investigate, spokesman Parker Briden said.
After the commission found no evidence to back up claims, the Department of Public Safety conducted additional interviews and an unannounced inspection, but also was unable to find evidence of wrongdoing, Briden said.
In a statement he says he gave during a closed meeting Monday, Missouri Veterans Commission deputy director Bryan Hunt defended the commission's review and said that some of the complaints are racially motivated and aimed at ousting the administrator. Carter is black.
Luebbert said the allegation that the complaints are racially motivated is "absurd." He said most of the patients, families and employees complaining are black.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also conducted a survey of the home in September and found the center to be in compliance with federal standards.
"In order to ensure that every veteran— and every veteran's family — has confidence in their care, I have directed the Department of Public Safety to initiate an additional full and independent investigation," Greitens said in a statement.
In his letter Thursday, Greitens encouraged the senators to reach out to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The governor ended his letter by saying that "Missourians need Congress to get its act together" by working on taxes, the Affordable Care Act and border security.