- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Kansas City Star, Nov. 3

Greitens responds to complaints of abuse at Missouri veterans home by playing politics

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has embarrassed himself with a self-serving response to complaints about the treatment of aging military veterans in the state.

During the past week, family members of residents at the state-run St. Louis Veterans Home have publicly complained of abuse, mistreatment and neglect at the nursing facility.

Family members say residents sometimes don’t receive basic care or needed assistance with eating and drinking. Medicines are administered improperly. A former state lawmaker said this week that some veterans consider the home a “killing field.”

The troubling allegations have attracted the interest of the public, veterans and reporters. Politicians have taken notice, too. This week, both U.S. senators from Missouri - Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Democrat - wrote to Greitens, asking for further investigation into the allegations.

The governor might have responded with a promise to address whatever problems may exist in St. Louis. After all, the nursing home is under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Veterans’ Commission. The state subsidizes the home and six others like it across Missouri.

Instead, Greitens wrote Blunt and McCaskill a blistering and unhelpful response, a letter dripping with sarcasm, defensive posturing and self-pity.

“We’ve been fighting for veterans,” the governor claimed. “As a veteran myself, I won’t tolerate a single one being mistreated.”

But if the testimony of residents and family members is accurate, Greitens has tolerated mistreatment of veterans in St. Louis. The administrator of the St. Louis home said he was made aware of the complaints in July. Greitens was sworn into office in January.

The letter continued with Greitens‘ now-familiar whining about inaction in Washington. “Frankly, it’s good to see some life out of Congress,” the governor wrote.

That’s a dangerous position for an elected executive who failed to convince lawmakers of the need for ethics reform and who presides over a state facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly under-funding public defenders.

But it’s even worse for a governor already running for president less than a year after taking office, with no real accomplishments to talk about.

We’d like to see some life out of the governor’s office, frankly. Serious issues have been raised about the St. Louis Veterans Home, and they deserve serious attention from the governor.

Why, for example, did the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs give the St. Louis home a clean bill of health in September?

What did the state know, and when did it act? What is it doing now, other than “investigating”?

And what about the 1,000 veterans in other state-run veterans’ nursing homes? Missouri will spend more than $77 million for equipment and salaries at veterans’ homes this fiscal year. Voters and veterans deserve answers.

They’re unlikely to get them from Greitens. “We don’t need more meaningless letters from career politicians,” he wrote the senators this week.

Career politician or not, Greitens says lots of meaningless - and mean-spirited - things. Veterans and Missourians are the worse for it.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 5

Deadbeat state is cheating 3,000 blind Missourians out of millions

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley last week said he will appeal a judge’s order that the state catch up with $26.3 million in back payments owed to 3,000 citizens who are totally blind. For financial reasons, as well as reasons of simple compassion, Hawley should rethink the appeal.

The state does not dispute that it owes the back payments, which stem from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Four previous appeals over how the payments are calculated have settled the issue. In the latest judgment, made public Oct. 8, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce figured the state’s bill at $26.3 million.

She noted that if the state hadn’t dragged its feet for the past five years, Missourians could have saved $7 million in interest alone. Hawley could save the state this year’s $2 million interest if he drops the appeal and convinces the Legislature to appropriate money to make the back payments.

Therein lies the problem. A half-billion dollars was cut from this year’s budget, and next year doesn’t look any better. The state doesn’t have a spare $26.3 million lying around, especially for poor people. If you’re a business looking for a tax break or cashing in a tax credit, the prospects are a lot rosier.

Some 8,000 elderly and disabled citizens already have been hung out to dry by Gov. Eric Greitens‘ veto of a one-time, $35 million appropriation for their in-home and nursing home care. Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, says Greitens has not responded to his request for a special session to deal with the problem.

In 1921, prompted by the advocacy of the legendary Helen Keller, Missouri implemented its Blind Pension Fund. It is financed by a 3-cent property tax levy authorized by the state constitution of 1875. Part of the reason behind the idea was to get blind beggars off the streets.

John Ammann, who heads the St. Louis University Law Clinic that is trying to get the state to pay up, said it took about a decade to create the problem beginning in the mid-1990s. The Department of Social Services began skimming money from the annual growth in tax revenue meant to fund the pension, he said. Recipients got their base payment (now about $718 a month) but lost out on a decade’s worth of growth.

The skimming ended in 2005, and the first lawsuit was filed in 2006 when the state wouldn’t make up back payments. And despite a succession of court orders, the bill continues to mount.

Hawley should move to end this abuse. Sadly, given the state’s current priorities, whatever goes to the blind will most likely come out of other safety-net programs, or perhaps by cutting current pensions. After all, Helen Keller is dead.


Jefferson City News-Tribune, Nov. 1

Legislature should address cybersecurity issue

The end of October also marks the end of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Unfortunately, problems associated with cybersecurity aren’t ending so quickly.

The observance started in 2004, and is sponsored by the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) within the Department of Homeland Security, and by the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance. The goal is to alert people to possible cyber-threats and offer tips and best practices concerning how to stay safe online.

Cyber threats pose dangers to individual computer users, but also can be serious threats to national security.

Children, especially, can be vulnerable.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway recently visited six schools in southern Missouri to commend officials on their efforts to be a Cyber Aware School. Each of the school districts have policies in place that require notification if a data breach occurs.

“State law does not require schools to notify parents if their children or family’s personal information has been compromised in a data breach, and as a parent and as state auditor, I find that concerning,” Galloway said in a statement. “I’m pleased to visit and congratulate these schools for taking a proactive approach to cyber awareness and voluntarily incorporating this critical step into their policies.”

These visits are part of a statewide initiative by Auditor Galloway to encourage schools to adopt a policy that will increase safeguards for students whose information is compromised during a data breach.

Current state law does not require notification if student information is compromised in a cybersecurity incident. A bill to set this requirement failed to gain traction during last spring’s legislative session.”

Galloway was part of that bipartisan effort. The bill is expected to be filed again during the 2018 legislative session.

Some may look at this as adding to bureaucratic red tape. But to us it seems like a common-sense proposal that deserves a thorough debate in the House and Senate next year.

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