In order to ensure Oklahoma’s veterans are receiving the best possible care at state veterans centers, Sen. Frank Simpson filed Senate Bill 228 this year. The bill, which creates the Quality Workforce for Oklahoma’s Heroes Act, received unanimous approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday. SB 228 authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to establish education and training programs for positions critical to the quality care of veterans residing within Department institutions.
“One of the main complaints we heard during our interim study over the state’s veterans centers was that the staff didn’t have the education and training necessary to meet the needs of the residents,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “This Act will help ensure that veteran center employees are the most highly qualified health care professionals possible. Our veterans deserve the best, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
Under the Act, ODVA will be allowed to contract with accredited institutions to get the training and education. Department funds will be used to pay salaries or tuition and subsistence for the employees in these training programs.
Those employees who achieve a “meets” or “exceeds” standards on their performance evaluation and meet the standards as established by ODVA will be eligible for additional education and/or training.
Employees who participate in the education and training program will pay for their education and training by agreeing to continue to work for the Department for a set period of time based on the program in which the employee participated. Beginning the day after their graduation, employees will get $13 per day towards their loan repayment. Anyone who violates the agreement, except those who volunteer or are drafted into active military service, could be sued by the Department in order to obtain any funds not paid back plus interest at the statutory rate, costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
SB 228 also authorizes ODVA to pay fees for employees to maintain licenses and certifications required to provide quality care and maintain accreditation at Department institutions. Like the education and training loan repayment, the Department may require employees to pay back the cost of fees.
The measure now goes before the full Senate.