There they go again!

An old refrain was recently heard again out at the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH). Last week, Commandant Oujiri announced the pending closure of Heinz Hall (HH) in 2018, reduction of veterans at that level by about half, and their relocation to the Sheeler Building where they would share a room in reduced space and also share one bathroom with four veterans. He suggested the convenience and sense of connectedness would offset the loss of their private rooms. Commandant Oujiri stated, “It’s all about the residents!” REALLY???? Many of the residents of HH would suggest that sounds more like what you get from the south end of a northbound bull!

Last year, IVH completed a $36 million renovation of the Dack and Malloy Buildings so that veterans could be afforded the dignity of private rooms and baths. Isn’t this a move backwards? Yes it is! Then WHY??? The answer is simple. Once again, it’s about the MONEY! Many of you will remember the chaos and turmoil started by Commandant Worley in early 2011 when he discharged over 40 younger veterans and adjusted the admissions age to favor admitting applicants over 65. This allowed the state to save millions by transferring 100 percnet of the cost of care to the federal funding stream called Title 19. While this denied IVH benefits to numerous honorably discharged veterans who were entitled to IVH services, the state saved a bundle. Thus, the Governor’s Office pushed for and supported this course of action while trying to suppress as much as possible the fact that when given a choice in priorities — VETERANS vs. MONEY — they chose MONEY! This is not a baseless claim. I have the evidence to support it. Worley started it; Tymeson not only kept it going but also turned down a fully funded, shovel-ready new building (65 percent federal/35 percent state) that was designated for mental health services (what’s more needed these days for so many younger veterans???), and now, it seems that Oujiri may be following the same course that has been flowing from the Governor’s Office for the last six years. This whole situation really needs some public interest and concern, especially if you care at all about veterans and how the Iowa Veterans Home is managed.

Rep. Mark Smith is hosting a town hall meeting in the basement of HH Monday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. Come, stand up for veterans! Join the discussion.