Democrats in the Iowa House plan to push a series of bills next week to support veterans and their families. Monticello Representative Ray Zirkelbach served nearly two years in Iraq with the Iowa Army National Guard. He says without proper mental health treatment, a new generation of veterans could end up homeless or dead. "Recent reports by the Department of Defense indicate that the suicide numbers are higher than actual active duty that are killed overseas in Iraq right now," Zirklebach said. "So, we need to be progressive on this issue. We need to take steps to ensure that the Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans get the care that they need – not to neglect veterans like what happened during the Vietnam War."
The proposed measures include a time off from work for military family members and mandatory insurance coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Webster City Representative McKinley Bailey served in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. He says active duty soldiers also deserve temporary protection from forclosure. "We just think if foreclosure is going to happen, it can wait until after they get home. We don’t want to be kicking families out of their houses while their father or mother is away serving in Iraq or Afghanistan," Bailey said.
Iowa has one of the highest numbers of national guard and reserve members in the nation who have been called to active duty. Zirklebach says those soldiers deserve more attention when they return home. He cited a newspaper report claiming there were around one-thousand homeless veterans in the state last year. "That is unacceptable," Zirklebach said. "We need to hit this at the beginning, be proactive about it and take preventative measures so we can ensure that 20 to 30 years down the road that our brothers and sisters aren’t in the same situation as those of the Vietnam veterans."
Many business organizations are opposed to any new insurance mandate for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even if it only applies to veterans, they say it will increase premiums for companies already struggling with rising insurance costs.