Congressman Dave Loebsack completed a series of meetings with veterans this week in nine cities around eastern Iowa. The Democrat from Mount Vernon says the top message he heard is that soldiers returning from war should have easy access to the support and care they deserve.
"That’s not been the case in the past, but I think in recent years, the American people, Congress and the president really recognize what veterans have done for us," Loebsack told Radio Iowa following his final veterans’ roundtable discussion in Washington, Iowa. A bill, recently approved in the Iowa Senate, would change who would be classified as a "veteran" in the state.
The measure would redefine veterans as anyone who served at any time in the U.S. military, national guard and reserve. "That’s something that I’d like to see happen on the federal level," Loebsack said. He says the move would make more people eligible for the same benefits provided to soldiers that have been involved in combat. Loebsack says he believes the Veterans Administration has improved it’s services, but a number of challenges lie ahead.
"We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg as far as veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention veterans from previous wars who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other illnesses. We really need to make a commitment to these folks and we’ve got to put the resources into this, because they deserve it," Loebsack said. Earlier this year, Loebsack helped secure $5.85 million in federal funding for a new VA research facility to be built in Iowa City.