Caring for our nation's veterans an important issue this week and every week

Monday's round table discussion focused on veterans' questions and concerns.

With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, this week is the perfect time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who fought, and those who are still fighting, for our nation's freedoms. However, the treatment and care of our nation's veterans is an important issue this week and every week.

Congressman Dave Loebsack held round table meetings with veterans first in Oskaloosa, then in Ottumwa Monday afternoon. The discussion focused on questions and concerns of veterans in our area, namely, jobs and services.

Filing a claim with Veterans Affairs can be a long, complicated process that sometimes takes up to two years to work its way through the system. Congressman Loebsack said this time-consuming process is unacceptable and just because more resources should and will be dedicated to Veterans Affairs, doesn't mean the process should continue to slow.

"When these folks come back, they've been deployed one, two, three times," Congressman Loebsack said. "They were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, we've got to make sure we treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve and we've got to make sure that this process works for them as expeditiously as possible so they can get, really, what they deserve... and that's being treated well by the VA, by the American taxpayer, by their country."

Mental health is also a big issue at hand. Several veterans spoke on needing a consistent delivery of mental health services from Community-Based Outreach Clinics, or CBOC. The congressman agreed, saying we as a country have only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recognizing, diagnosing and treating veterans with mental health issues and/or PTSD.

As far as jobs, Congressman Loebsack said the federal government needs to think ahead for how the country will provide with veterans when they return home before shipping them overseas. When troops were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001, it seems very little thought was given to how they would be taken care of after completing their services, a time that has come for many of those citizens.

It was mentioned that more could also be done on a city level to help place veterans in local jobs. While local government is not an issue for Congressman Loebsack, Ottumwa Mayor Frank Flanders was in attendance and said this is an issue that can be brought before the Ottumwa city council.