Guest Commentary – State Veterans Deserve Better

State Veterans Deserve Better
By Senator Jack Harper

On Wednesday, the Joint Select Committee to Investigate Operations and Conditions at the Arizona Veterans Home, which I have been tasked to chair, set out to find the facts surrounding the reported neglect. This is a committee that I was hand-picked by Senate leadership to co-chair with another U.S. Military veteran, Rep. John Nelson.

Having both served our country, we take issues concerning fragile veterans very seriously.

It has been discovered that the Arizona Veterans Home had several problems that needed correcting. Some were so severe, that the Department of Health Services refused to leave the home for numerous days, until life-threatening situations were corrected.

The governor’s Office is claiming that the governor was not told about the problems that were discovered by DHS around February 8th or 9th, 2007. We are told that the governor found out when a reporter for the state’s largest newspaper confronted her on March 23rd. Her co-chief of staff, Alan Stephens, is now taking the blame for withholding the information for six weeks.

During the line of questioning toward Mr. Stephens, Representative Paton inquired why the governor was not told. The situation was downplayed as not serious enough.

Paton implied that Stephens speaks with the governor on a daily basis. Paton asked how serious Stephens thought the situation was and how serious a situation had to be to involve the governor.

Along this same line of questioning, I asked Stephens if he had a good working relationship with the governor. I asked how long he has had a working relationship with her. He stated “20 years.” She has not been in elected office that long. I asked if he had worked for her in any other capacity or if she had worked for him in any capacity. He stated that he has only worked for her in the current capacity, but she had represented him as his attorney in a couple of cases. I asked what cases. He stated that she represented him when he faced criminal charges under the AZScam sting years ago.

Wednesday was the first time I had heard that. I asked if I had heard that correctly, that she was his attorney during AZScam. He began yelling about his innocence, the Democrats on the committee erupted with a couple of them yelling over me and pointing their fingers too close to my face.The line of questioning was appropriate, as we are trying to determine why there was a breakdown in the governor’s office, as well as at the Arizona Veteran’s Home.With several Democrats refusing to allow me to continue, the entire situation became volatile. We were pressed for time as the Senate’s floor session was about to begin. I attempted to regain control of the committee and said we would digest this until the following day at 2 pm.

I recessed the committee and dealt with the aggressive Democrats for the few minutes that I had before the floor session. I warned the Democrats early in the committee that this would not be a free-for-all and members would wait to be recognized by the chair before beginning to comment. This first warning came after Sen. Richard Miranda made a point without a chairman calling on him.

Ironically, I am getting a lot of criticism for my questions to Mr. Stephens, when I was not out of order. In fact, it was Mr. Stephens and Rep. Ben Miranda who violated Senate rules regarding decorum by yelling at me and Representative Richard Miranda for speaking without being called on.

Now after the dust has settled, reporters have opined that I should have known Alan Stephens’ history in the AZScam scandal. I have better things to do than to gossip about the past of the governor’s staff, specifically, looking out for the veterans. I hope the East Valley Tribune will join me in this.

State Senator Jack Harper Represents the 4th Legislative District which includes the town of Surprise.

jharper@azleg.gov


Comments

  1. Gordon Brown says

    Patrick Chorpenning was the Director of Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and the Arizona Veterans Home whose mission is … “To advance the interests of Arizona veterans through advocacy, legislation, service, and community relationships.”

    Currently Arizona (my home state) is ranked 50th as it relates to state provided benefits for Veterans. Please tell me specifically what Patrick Chorpenning did to promote the mission for the Department of Veterans’ Services. Mr. Chorpenning was directing the services the Arizona Legislature passed into law which are the worst in the country.

    The state Legislature has repeatedly failed Arizona Veterans and has ardently maintained the position of 50th for state provided benefits for Veterans. I was told that state attorneys have told legislators that additional benefits for Veterans would be illegal because Veterans are considered a Special Interest Group. Well that Special Interest Group is the ONLY reason those attorneys have the freedom to practice their version of the law.

    Until this state Legislature changes it’s attitude to an “Attitude of Gratitude for Veterans”, Arizona will remain 50th. Once again, Arizona can maintain our position as an embarrassment to the rest of the Nation and treating over 600,000 Veterans with complete disrespect until November 11th when we have a parade.

    I could not agree more intensely with Senator Harper, regarding his article titled State Veterans Deserve Better. Until this state Legislature understands that without the sacrifices Veterans make daily there would not be an Arizona, Arizona Veterans will continue to be disrespected. The breakdown has always been with the Legislature and not the Governors; the Legislature has never passed the laws to provide the benefits or protection for those most deserving, the “fragile veterans” at the Arizona Veterans Home.

    “The First Cost of Freedom is Supporting Our Veterans”.

  2. Thank you for commenting and calling, Gordon. Your number was blocked, so I screened the call. This year, I attempted to exempt from state income tax, military retirement pay and survivor benefits. Over the last two years, I eliminated the state income tax on active-duty military pay. This year, the legislature will go back to subsidizing the veterans’ home. Every year, we pass bills to give benefits to families of service members and veterans. Next year, we will have to concentrate on rehabilitation and training for careers, because the federal government is not following through with the benefits veterans deserve.

    Jack

Leave a Reply