Finally, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has taken long overdue steps to improve treatment for 1,300 military veterans in seven state-run skilled nursing care facilities.
On Monday, Greitens called for the firing of Rolando Carter, the administrator of the St. Louis Veterans Home, where allegations of mistreatment of veterans surfaced last spring.
Greitens also said he had found replacements for five members of the Missouri Veterans Commission whose terms have expired. He said he wants to replace Larry Kay, the commission’s executive director.
He ordered investigations into the treatment of veterans at six other state-run homes, including Warrensburg.
“Big government failed these veterans,” Greitens said in a statement.
It was a typically self-serving comment. Many people failed these veterans, and Greitens is among them.
Credible reports of mistreatment at the St. Louis Veterans Home surfaced last winter. This summer, a former state legislator and an activist on military issues gave Greitens’ office a report on alleged problems at the home.
Family members stepped forward with harrowing accounts of mistreatment.
Yet Greitens failed to hold anyone to account. Three commission members could have been replaced this summer, but were not. The terms of two others expired in November, yet they stayed in their seats.
Maybe his attention was focused elsewhere. The governor did find time to appoint 10 members to the Missouri Board of Education so it could fire Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven without apparent cause.
The governor found time to write a bitter, sarcastic letter to Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, defending his decision to wait for yet another investigation of the St. Louis home before figuring out what to do.
Somehow, Greitens also found time to travel around the country, climb a rock wall, rappel into a rodeo, dash into a burning structure with firefighters and run an obstacle course.
The elderly veterans in the St. Louis home, one assumes, were unable to engage in similar publicity stunts.
The Missouri General Assembly must address Greitens’ decision-making here. Lawmakers should demand a full hearing on the St. Louis situation, including testimony from the governor’s staff. We’d also like to hear more from family members at all of the state’s veterans homes.
Others share the responsibility for the St. Louis debacle, including the four commission members appointed by the legislature. But Greitens isn’t blameless. At some point, he must accept the fact that he is the governor of Missouri.
“We hold leaders responsible,” Greitens claimed Monday. “When people are being hurt, and bureaucrats fail to act, fail to listen, and offer only excuses, we’re going to find out, and they are going to be fired.”
The record seems clear: Greitens failed to hear veterans and for months, he failed to act. Now he offers excuses. Missourians have found that out and should hold him responsible. The state’s veterans are depending on it.