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.