Kevin Nicholson faces criticism over inaction on veterans home conditions

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MADISON- Potential U.S. Senate candidate is facing criticism over what critics are calling a record of inaction over conditions at veterans homes. Kevin Nicholson, who has still not announced that he is running for U.S. Senate, has won the support of several big donors and PACs, but negative details about him keep coming to light. Critics are now saying that Nicholson failed to respond to concerns regarding the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. While serving on the state Department of Veterans Affairs board, Nicholson ignored emails from at least February 2013 which raised concerns about the facility.

Jason Stein at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

A state’s veterans board member and potential U.S. Senate candidate didn’t directly respond to safety concerns that critics raised to him about Wisconsin’s largest veterans home over the past four years, a Journal Sentinel review of his emails shows.

The first documented action on King home taken by former Marine Kevin Nicholson is a request he made in March for a report on the state home in Waupaca County, which followed months of critical news stories about it.

Veterans issues are playing a major role in the 2018 race, in which U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has already faced criticism for not doing enough to look into the over-prescription of painkillers at the federal Veterans Affairs facility in Tomah.

Now, critics are questioning whether Nicholson, a member of the state Department of Veterans Affairs board, did enough to look into claims of poor care for King’s nearly 700 residents.

Nicholson didn’t attend a Veterans Affairs board meeting at King in July 2016 or respond to emails with concerns about the home going back to at least February 2013, according to emails released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the state’s open records law.

“Only after Tammy Baldwin released a federal report listing deficiencies at Wisconsin Veterans Home at King did … Nicholson care about the poor treatment of Wisconsin veterans,” said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Gillian Drummond.

Starting in April 2016, Baldwin sent a series of letters to federal regulators urging them to investigate conditions at King, including one letter that resulted in a report this springthat found a resident had fallen out of a bed and suffered a skull fracture. The week of the report’s release, Nicholson made his request for the report on King conditions at a veterans board meeting.

Nicholson finished a four-year term on the Veterans Affairs board on May 1 but remains on the panel until a replacement can be appointed. The volunteer board advises agency leadership on veterans issues.

In a statement, Nicholson acknowledged not visiting King, though he did attend a 2015 meeting at the state’s Union Grove veterans home. A former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nicholson called it his “mission to do everything I can” for veterans in need and said he emphasized jobs for veterans while on the board.

“Multiple audits … show that Wisconsin’s veterans homes are high quality,” Nicholson said in a statement. “When mistakes were made, I communicated with leadership to make sure issues were addressed appropriately.”

Nicholson didn’t provide specific examples of that communication beyond saying he had spoken with then-state veteran affairs secretary John Scocos.

Read more at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.