Veterans Affairs town hall held at Iowa Veterans Home

Vietnam vets also honored

Oujiri

Oujiri

It was a busy morning and afternoon at the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH), with not only a Vietnam 50th Commemorative Ceremony, but the presence of representatives from Veterans Affairs (VA), who hosted a town hall-styled forum, followed by a Benefits Claims Clinic.

Dan Gannon, chairman for the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs, gave a short presentation and helped hand out commemorative pins to Vietnam vets present for the town hall. He also provided information about the book: “Vietnam War 50th Commemoration A Time to Honor: Stories of Service, Duty and Sacrifice.” Those interested in obtaining a free copy of the book can stop in at the IVH building, Heinz Hall.

“We must continue to talk, because we are the living witnesses,” Gannon said. “We have to maintain those memories so their sacrifices will not be forgotten.”

Gail Graham, director of the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines, helped lead the town hall discussion. She spoke about the rate of veteran suicides in this country — 20 each day (down from 22) — noting ways in which the VA is trying to continue to lower this.

“We’re looking at data as indicators: pain, depression and insomnia rates, to proactively reach out to veterans we know may be in crisis,” Graham said. “It really is a community issue. Fourteen out of those 20 people never sought help.”

Ken Smith, deputy director for operations analytics at the VA, was also on hand to provide some statistics and answer questions.

“There are 250,000 veterans in Iowa, which is something great to think about,” he said. “We have helped 4,000 Iowans with home loans and provided life insurance for 7,000 vets who couldn’t get it in the private sector because of health problems.

The speed in which medical claims are processed is a question the VA commonly is asked to address.

“Last year, 1.4 million claims were filed with the VA, with at least one million each year for the last eight years,” Smith said. “It takes on average 113 days to complete claims, and our employees are working mandatory and voluntary overtime hours to do better with this.”

After the town hall, representatives were available to answer specific questions and to help veterans learn the ways in which they can maximize their benefits and experience through the VA. These town halls are held at IVH on a quarterly basis.

Marshalltown’s VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) is located at 101 Iowa Ave West. It can be reached at: 641-754-6700. It addition to medical exams, it also offers optometry and mental health services. It is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

——–

Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com