Miller-Meeks Holds Veterans ‘Listening Session’ in Davenport | Local News






Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) listens to a veteran before the start of Monday’s listening session at the Eastern Iowa Colleges downtown campus in Davenport.


Tom Lowy



Eric Sanders brought simple, stark facts to Monday’s Veterans Affairs Roundtable held at the downtown Davenport campus of Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.

“Two men in their 40s, veterans of the Iraq War, committed suicide in Muscatine within the last 60 days,” said Sanders, one of the veterans who leads the Muscatine County Veterans Services Group. “The wives of one of these men said to me, ‘I never knew what resources were available to him.’

“I had another vet, in his 40s, who was eating out of the dumpster behind the Muscatine Hy-Vee. He was shown the resources available to him, found a home and found a job. The difference is knowing the help that is available there.”

Sanders’ message was delivered to Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa, 2nd District) and fellow Republican Mike Bost (Illinois 12th District) during what they called their “meeting session.” listening” with veterans and leaders of service organizations dedicated to helping those who served in the armed forces.

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Alongside Sanders, Joseph Lemon of the Abbey Addition Treatment Center in Bettendorf, Lola Vendewalle of Quad-City Veterans Outreach and Bryan Miller of the Quad-Cities Veterans Network were on hand to provide feedback and raise issues.

“We ask the fundamental question, ‘How does an armed forces veteran become a civilian again?’ And it’s not an easy question,” said Bost, a senior member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “We know that in 2017 about 20 veterans committed suicide every day. We know that today that number is about 17.

“And of those 17, only six veterans will ever seek help from the Veterans Administration. Eleven will never use the resources available to them. That’s a number we need to change.”

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Miller-Meeks pointed to one of the stumbling blocks veterans face when seeking social, medical or employment services.

“Everything we heard today was important, but I have to say that hearing about the ongoing issues that vets are having with documents, especially DD-214s, was very telling, Miller-Meeks said. . “It will be legislation that I will work on.”

The DD-214 is a one-page document that provides a service member’s discharge date and military service details. Sanders stressed that a veteran cannot receive any form of assistance without verification of his release.

“Without this verification, there is only one place to go to confirm release dates: the National Archives,” Sanders said. “Before I can help a homeless vet find accommodation, we are awaiting a response from the National Archives.”

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Lemon raised the issue of what is perceived as “intrusive questioning” when veterans ask for help. He pointed to questionnaires that ask veterans for their monthly income and sex at birth when asking for help with problems. Bost also pointed to “20-year-olds” at veterans hospitals who interview veterans about combat service.

“We find that veterans can walk away from important resources because of how they are treated during the application process,” Miller-Meeks said. “It’s a matter of training and also benevolence, which can be very difficult to teach in some cases.”

Miller, of the Veterans Affairs group, spoke about what he considered a success story: the Department of Defense Skills Bridge Program, which places veterans in companies into paid positions to help former fighter to learn how to apply his skills.

“It gives the vet a job before they come out — a job that’s paid for by the DOD, so there’s little risk or cost to the company,” Miller said. “So a veteran is released with more on their resume than just military experience. It’s a real chance to learn how your skills can be used in the civilian world.”

Miller-Meeks and Bost pointed to skills learned in the military as veterans’ biggest selling points to new employers.

“We know veterans show up on time, work hard, and have good skills and the ability to learn,” Miller-Meeks said. “Employers shouldn’t be afraid to hire veterans.”

Bost said another stumbling block for veterans was the “all are broken” idea.

“Most veterans are highly motivated and highly skilled and make great employees,” Bost said. “It’s a message that we need to pass on to the community.”

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