The head of a national veterans support group says returning soldiers who’ve served their country should be able to count on better service at Veterans Administration hospitals. Ed Kemp of Waterloo is the national commander of AMVETS, which represents veterans from every branch of the military including the National Guard and Reserves. Like the VFW or American Legion, they welcome vets, though without some of the qualifications other groups require like active duty overseas.
For the most part Kemp says AMVETS exists to make sure veterans get the benefits they deserve, and what they earned while they served. AMVETS has 60 national service officers who help represent a veteran when they have a claim with the V-A. There’s also a legislative director lobbying Congress all the time, presenting suggestions, trying to get all the benefits veterans are entitled to, and letting lawmakers where the group stands on veterans issues.
Kemp says the group isn’t criticizing VA hospitals. “The V-A hospitals are great,” Kemp says, adding they give as much help as they can. He says it’s funding that causes problems, as Congress tends to under-fund the hospitals. They can only operate within their budgets, and he says that can prevent veterans from getting benefits they’re entitled to.
Kemp says the senate passed a bill that falls about 1-point-1-billion dollars short of the proposal AMVETS and three other organizations put together, and last year had to go in and pass an emergency appropriation to cover the under-funding. He says this year he’s hoping they’ll fully fund programs that are needed. The group hopes to put together a symposium next year in Chicago to figure out what direction the V-A should take in the future.
It’ll try to figure out what the needs of younger veterans are, compared to the needs of those who served in World War Two, Korea, or or Vietnam. Kemp says they know there’ll have to be a change in how benefits are delivered to veterans, so AMVETS is sponsoring the seminar to find out just what those needs are. Kemp is a U.S. Air Force veteran who joined AMVETS in 1982. WIth more than 180-thousand members nationally, AMVETS has staff in Iowa and 39 other states who help veterans find out what benefits they are eligible for, and help cut through the red tape to get those benefits.There are 61 AMVET posts in Iowa, and you can learn more on-line at www.amvets.org.