Ensuring access to services

Senator Ernst tours IVH, talks veterans’ care

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) toured the complex of the Iowa Veterans Home Monday morning, accompanied by IVH Commandant Timon Oujiri, right. The visit was part of her recently launched 99 counties tour of Iowa. Ernst spoke to residents and staff about her work to improve veterans’ access to medical and mental health resources.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, toured the complex of the Iowa Veterans Home Monday morning, accompanied by IVH Commandant Timon Oujiri and state Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, as well as members of the press.

While the senator has attended various ceremonies held at the facility, this was her first time taking a guided tour. The stop was part of her 99 county tour, which she kicked off on Sunday.

As part of her tour of IVH, which was not open to the public, she was shown the inner workings of the complex, and met with staff and residents. She spoke with Claude Ganey, who at age 101 is the oldest veteran residing at IVH. She also dropped in on Joseph Sims, 97, whom she met in Washington, D.C. on a recent Honor Flight. Ernst listened to the personal stories of the veterans who stopped to chat with her during the tour, talking about their shared military experience. Ernst joined the Iowa Army National Guard in 2001, and was promoted to major in 2005, and to lieutenant colonel in 2011. She served in the military for over 20 years before her retirement in 2015.

Ernst spoke about her commitment to improving the availability of medical and mental health resources to this country’s veterans, including her legislation on veterans e-health and telemedicine, which unanimously passed the senate earlier this month. Ernst co-sponsored the legislation alongside Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, which reintroduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS Act). The legislation seeks to improve access to healthcare services for disabled and rural veterans by expanding telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Mazie and I understand the importance of providing access for people in rural parts of the country,” she said.

When asked what concern(s) veterans most often discuss with her during these types of meetings and gatherings, Ernst told the Times-Republican, “Access to services is always the number one thing veterans talk about, and scheduling challenges, but once they’re engaged in the VA system, they’re pleased with the service,” she said.

She noted how improvements can only be made through cooperation among local, state and federal entities.

In addition to touring IVH, earlier in the day the senator spoke at the Iowa Corn Growers Association Crop Fair at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama County.

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