Laura Belin

VA vaccine mandate won't apply to Iowa Veterans Home

Staff at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, where a recent COVID-19 outbreak killed two fully vaccinated residents, are not subject to a new vaccine mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced on July 26 that coronavirus vaccinations are now required for “Title 38 VA health care personnel — including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors — who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves.”

The Iowa Veterans Home is a state-run facility, but it receives some federal funding, is certified by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and has residents who use VA health care. At least 900 employees work at the Marshalltown facility, which is Iowa’s largest nursing home. Families and guardians were informed in late June that 70 percent of staff had already been vaccinated for COVID-19. That would leave more than 250 unprotected by any coronavirus vaccine.

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Utah attorney sues state agency for Test Iowa records

An attorney representing the board chair of the Salt Lake Tribune has sued the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and its records custodian for failing to provide email correspondence related to the $26 million Test Iowa program.

Paul Huntsman confirmed on July 30 that the lawsuit Suzette Rasmussen filed in Polk County the previous day is part of his Jittai initiative. The Tribune’s board chair recently created Jittai in order “to learn more about TestUtah and its sister programs” created through similar no-bid contracts in Iowa, Tennessee, and Nebraska. Florida also implemented parts of the program.

According to the court filing, which is posted in full below, Rasmussen wrote to Sarah Ekstrand in March seeking “copies of all correspondence between the Iowa Department of Public Health, including but not limited to Interim Director Kelly Garcia, and the Iowa Governor’s Office, Utah state officials, Nebraska state officials, and Tennessee state officials regarding the Test Iowa Contract” from March 1, 2020 to March 11, 2021.

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Rest in peace, John Landon

State Representative John Landon passed away on July 29, his family announced. He was serving his fifth term representing Iowa House district 37, covering part of Ankeny. In tributes posted publicly, many Republican colleagues commented on Landon’s kindness and work ethic, including Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, House Speaker Pat Grassley, and Garrett Gobble, who now represents the other Ankeny House district.

Landon had chaired the House Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee since 2015, and also served this year on the Commerce and Transportation committees. Although he missed much of the 2021 legislative session while being treated for the illness that claimed his life, he was able to floor manage the bill setting the fiscal year 2022 budget for a number of state agencies and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and state auditor.

Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter, who served on the budget panel Landon led, told Bleeding Heartland on July 30 that Landon was “the nicest guy in the House” and someone who reached across the aisle when bills or amendments were being considered.

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IA-Sen: Medicare for All drives Glenn Hurst's campaign

A third Democrat joined the race for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat on July 29. Dr. Glenn Hurst made clear that one issue in particular is driving his campaign.

“I went back to school and became a doctor because I saw a need in the rural communities I love and call home,” Hurst said in a news release. “I’ve had a front-row seat to the tricks insurance companies use to avoid paying for care, drowning providers in paperwork when we should be with our patients. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because Iowans deserve better. We deserve Medicare for All.”

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Iowa Veterans Home leader overpaid for years before ouster

Staff in the governor’s office and Iowa Veterans Home declined to clarify why Governor Kim Reynolds fired the home’s Commandant Timon Oujiri in early May, and for months did not respond to public records requests related to Oujiri’s removal.

The mystery was revealed on July 29, when State Auditor Rob Sand released a special report showing Oujiri had received $105,412.85 in improper compensation since June 2019, including $90,027.20 of unauthorized gross wages.

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