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Greitens wants state veterans administrators fired after problems at St. Louis Veterans Home

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called for the firing of Missouri Veterans Home administrator Rolando Carter, as well as Missouri Veterans Commission executive director Larry Kay.
Jo Mannies I St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called for the firing of Missouri Veterans Home administrator Rolando Carter, as well as Missouri Veterans Commission executive director Larry Kay.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling for the Missouri Veterans Commission – which he has reconfigured with five new members – to meet this week and fire the panel’s executive director and the head of a state veterans home in north St. Louis County.

At a news conference Monday outside the facility, Greitens said he also is ordering an examination of all state veterans homes in the wake of an independent study by a private health care firm that determined a “substandard quality of care’’ at the 300-bed St. Louis Veterans Home in Bellefontaine Neighbors.

Greitens said he wants the Veterans Commission to fire that home’s administrator, Rolando Carter, as well as commission executive director Larry Kay.  The governor said he has no recommended permanent replacements, but has plans for interim officials in those posts.

Among other things, the probe by Harmony Healthcare International cited cases where patients weren’t given their medications on time and suffered bed sores because personnel failed to give them appropriate personal care.

“Some of these soldiers were left unattended and unwashed,’’ the governor said.

A retired Navy SEAL, Greitens blasted the federal Veterans Administration and the state commission for failing to turn up the problems in their earlier investigations, which were launched in response to families’ complaints.

“The VA told us the complaints were baseless,’’ the governor said, observing that he had been wary of their assessment because “I’ve seen the VA fail too many families and fail to care for too many veterans.”

Greitens’ staff said his administration paid between $55,000 and $60,000 for the one-month study this fall by Harmony Healthcare. That inquiry took place in November.

Greitens’ actions come about a week after Lt. Gov. Mike Parson went public with similar concerns. State Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, whose north St. Louis County district includes the home, also supports a leadership change.

The governor praised former state Rep. Rick Stream, now St. Louis County’s Republican elections director, for first highlighting concerns of veterans’ families this summer.

The veterans home ignited a rare public display of hostility a few weeks ago when Greitens sent a scathing letter to the Missouri’s two U.S. senators – fellow Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill – over their joint letter asking for a state investigation into allegations of patient mistreatment.

Greitens replied at the time that a state investigation, presumably by Harmony Healthcare, was already underway. And he accused the two senators of failing to take earlier action to protect veterans needing care.

New Veterans Commission members

The governor appoints five of the nine members of the Missouri Veterans Commission. All require confirmation by the state Senate.

Greitens’ new nominees will serve until the Senate reconvenes in January, and replace five who earlier had been named by former Gov. Jay Nixon.  The terms of all five commissioners had expired, so they could be replaced at any time.

Greitens noted that his nominees are all veterans, and include two physicians. They are:

Dr. John Buckner, a general surgeon at the Ferrell-Duncan Clinic at CoxHealth in Springfield. He is a retired colonel;

Dr. José Dominguez, who also a surgeon at the Ferrell-Duncan Clinic. He is a retired lieutenant colonel;

Meredith Knopp, who is the senior Vice President of Programs and Operations at The Mission Continues, a nonprofit founded by Greitens. She is a retired Army captain and a cofounder of HEROES Care, a non-profit that provides support for veterans and their families.

Tim Noonan, founding board member of the Friends of Soldiers Memorial, and the founder and chief executive at NICE Holdings. He’s a retired Marine and formerly the Vice President of Training Systems and Government Services in The Boeing Company’s Defense, Space, and Security division.

Tim Smith, the owner and founder of Patriot Commercial Cleaning.  He’s a retired Army sergeant and has been recognized as the Veteran Business Owner of the Year in Missouri and has hired over forty veteran employees.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.