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Greitens blasts Blunt, McCaskill in letter about veterans home

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks during a news conference after the end of the 2017 legislative session. Greitens used this opportunity to compare lawmakers to third graders for not passing enough bills.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Eric Greitens has slammed Missouri's two U.S. senator for a letter they sent regarding a St. Louis veterans home.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has sent a scathing letter to the state’s two U.S. senators – including fellow Republican Roy Blunt – that accuses them of ignoring problems at the state-run St. Louis Veterans Home and trying to shift the responsibility to him.

In the letter, sent Thursday, Greitens appeared to take offense at an earlier letter that Blunt and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill had jointly sent to him this week asking for an investigation into accusations of patient mistreatment.

Greitens, who is a retired Navy SEAL, said a state examination of the home’s operations already has been underway.

“I appreciate your recent interest in the St. Louis Veterans Home,” Greitens wrote. “Frankly, it’s good to see some signs of life out of Congress. A lot of us back home have been wondering what you’ve been up to.”

Greitens’ staff provided a copy of his letter, sent on his official letterhead, to St. Louis Public Radio.

Such a public jab aimed at his state’s own senators – especially one in his own party — is rare for a Missouri governor, particularly while  acting in an official capacity.

The governor’s missive comes as he has attracted attention for a recent visit to Iowa, a must-stop for any potential presidential hopeful.

In one sarcastic observation in his letter to the senators, the governor took note that the duo had asked in their letter for a copy of the VA report on the St. Louis Veterans Home.

“The VA publicly released that report back in September,’’ Greitens wrote. “If you lost your copy, you can Google, ‘St. Louis Veterans Home Survey Report Va.’ It’s the second link down.”

(However, the governor's link appears to refer to a report on the VA Regional Office in St Louis — not the state-run Veterans Home.)

Later, Greitens added: “We don’t need more meaningless letters from career politicians. What we need is action. After all that time in Washington, both of you should have some pull there, so you should talk to your friends at the VA. Get to work helping veterans, and fix the broken bureaucracy that fails our veterans and their families.”

Greitens ended the letter by shifting topics. “Missourians need Congress to get its act together and do its job. Tax relief, Obamacare repeal, securing our borders – folks back home are looking for some results from Washington, D.C. It’s been too long and we’re tired of waiting.”

As for the St. Louis Veterans Home, situated in north St. Louis County, Greitens wrote that his office "called on the Missouri Veterans Commission to investigate immediately'' after learning of the allegations.  The state Department of Public Safety then conducted a followup, Greitens said.

"Then, we asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to do the same," the governor added. "As a veteran myself, I won't tolerate a single one being mistreated ..."

Senators respond 

In response to the governor's letter, McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard said in an e-mailed statement: "This is a state-run veterans facility. The governor should toughen up, accept the criticism, and fix it." 

Credit Gage Skidmore | Flickr
U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill

Blunt said in a statement: "“I take seriously the concerns raised by veterans and their families at the public meeting in Kirkwood on Monday. I agree with Governor Greitens that these allegations are deeply disturbing, and support his call for an investigation into this state-run veterans home. I believe it is important that the investigation be conducted by an independent entity."

“I want  our state and the governor to be successful, and any advice I have for him is always given with that in mind,” he added. 

This week, the administrator of the St. Louis Veterans Home said many of the concerns raised by relatives of patients have already been addressed. 

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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