HONORING OUR VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS
November 11 is Veterans Day, a time to honor all American veterans, living and dead, for their service to our country.
Iowa is home to about 240,000 veterans. In recent years, record numbers of service members have returned to our state as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down. We are grateful for the sacrifices of these men and women—and to thousands of others from previous conflicts.
Iowa is a national leader when it comes to supporting veterans. Each year, we work to improve services at the state and county levels to help service members make a smooth transition back to civilian life. Local veterans’ organizations tell us that education, job training and health care are among the essentials needed to welcome them home.
Over the years, we’ve boosted help for returning soldiers seeking a college degree or the skills to qualify for good jobs. We’ve worked with employers to protect soldiers’ jobs while they’re serving overseas. We’ve made it illegal to foreclose on the homes of active duty Iowa National Guard members. And we’ve improved efforts to connect veterans to the help they need and the benefits they’ve earned.
This year, we continued Iowa’s strong track record of supporting and honoring our veterans, service members and their families by:
• Ensuring that those serving on active duty remain eligible to receive tuition assistance benefits and attend school once they return.
• Emphasizing the admission of homeless, honorably discharged veterans to the Iowa Veterans Home.
• Including a mental health treatment staff member on the care committee for patients at the Iowa Veterans Home.
• Providing care at the Iowa Veterans Home for Gold Star parents—that is any parent of a service member who died on active duty.
• Providing more than $12 million to train our service members and honor our veterans, including money for the Iowa Veterans Cemetery and the Iowa
Veterans Oral History Project.
To learn more about the services and benefits available to Iowa veterans, go to https://va.iowa.gov.
QUALITY CARE AT THE IOWA VETERANS HOME
The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, which opened in 1887, is the largest home of its kind in the United States. It provides a wide range ofhealth care services to veterans and is the largest nursing home in Iowa. For many Iowa veterans in need, the Iowa Veterans Home is their finalvhome.
A highlight of the Legislature’s work in recent years has been the renovation of the Veterans Home, which began in 2009 and was completed in 2012. This multimillion-dollar effort was a joint project of the state of Iowa and the federal Veterans Administration.
A major goal was to improve the quality of life for residents by adding additional private bedrooms and baths, more natural light and better accommodations for Iowa veterans and their family members. An extensive on-site review by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave the improvements a “perfect score.”
This spring, legislators heard from Iowans concerned about a drop in quality at the Veterans Home. It soon became clear that our veterans were not receiving the respect and care that we’ve come to expect from the Iowa Veterans Home. During this controversy, citizens from across the state repeatedly urged the Legislature not to compromise when it comes to the basic quality of life and safety of those who’ve served our country.
Thanks to those who helped sound the alarm, we replaced someone who was the wrong person to run the Iowa Veterans Home with the right person to lead that important institution. Today, the Iowa Veterans Home is in good hands. I’m confident that the new Commandant, Brigadier General Jodi Tymeson, is committed to providing Iowa veterans with the highest level of service possible, and doing so in an open, professional manner.
Learn more about the Iowa Veterans Home and all that it offers our veterans and their families at http://ivh.iowa.gov.
TRUST FUND HELPS IOWA VETERANS IN NEED
Military service is a life-changing event for service members and their families. Our obligation to veterans continues long after they return home. The Veterans Trust Fund is there to help those in the greatest need.
The Legislature created the Veterans Trust Fund in 2003 and invested about $6 million in state dollars. To increase the balance in the Fund and help more veterans in need, the Legislature voted in 2008 for the Iowa Lottery to create patriotic-themed scratch and pull-tab games with profits going to the Fund. These instant lottery games bring in $2 million to $3 million annually. In addition, Iowans who file a tax return may designate a donation to the Veterans Trust Fund through an income tax check off. As of September 30, the Fund had reached a balance of $18.1 million.
Interest earned on the Veterans Trust Fund has been helping veterans and their families—particularly those with limited incomes who have immediate needs—since December 2007. The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs administers the Fund, authorizing requests for unemployment assistance due to service-related causes; health and dental care; medical equipment and prescription drugs; counseling and substance abuse treatment; home and vehicle repairs; and emergency housing.
To better protect our veterans from the long-term effects of brain injury, the Legislature voted this year to allow the Veterans Trust Fund to cover screening for service-related traumatic brain injury for those who don’t qualify for any other government program, private health insurance or managed care organization.
During the 2013 session, we also established an account within the Veterans Trust Fund to defray college expenses for children of service members who died on active duty prior to 9/11 by transferring $129,000 from the War Orphans Educational Assistance Fund. The federal Post 9/11 GI Bill covers college tuition for children of military personnel killed in action since September 11, 2001.
To learn more about the Veterans Trust Fund or to apply for help, go to https://va.iowa.gov/benefits/index.html#Veterans_Trust_Fund.
NEWS VETERANS CAN USE
Free rides for veterans in Muscatine
Many Iowa public transit agencies will be offering free rides to veterans this Veterans Day to thank them for their service, including Muscatine City Transit (MuscaBus). To find out what other local transit systems are doing, go to www.iowadot.gov/transit/transitveterans.html.
Veterans can get their status on driver’s license or ID
Honorably discharged veterans can now have their “veteran” designation noted on their driver’s license or state ID anytime they seek a new card. For those renewing their license or ID, all usual fees apply. Adding the veteran’s designation to a current license or ID costs $10.
The Legislature approved this voluntary opportunity to make it easier for veterans to get benefits, such as discounts at restaurants, hotels and other businesses, by eliminating the need to carry official military papers for these purposes.
To get the designation, a veteran should bring a copy of their discharge papers to their county Veterans Affairs office. That office will confirm their veteran status and complete a form authorizing the Iowa DOT to add the designation to the individual’s card. The veteran must then take the completed form to a driver’s license issuance location to have the designation added.
Veterans can expedite the process by bringing a completed DOT form to the county VA office, along with their discharge papers. Find the form at https://va.iowa.gov/images/DOT432035.pdf.
Hunting opportunity for disabled veterans and military
Disabled veterans and disabled active military personnel from out of state will now be able to hunt in Iowa at resident prices as a result of legislation we approved this year.
To qualify, a hunter must be a veteran with a service-connected disability of at least 30 percent or serving on active duty and participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System. The hunter must also participate in a hunt conducted by an organization that provides hunting experiences for disabled veterans and military personnel. Further details are available at www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/HuntingLicensesLaws/LicenseApplications.aspx.