Serve those who have served – Newton Daily News
By US Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks
The men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude. As a veteran and a member of the House Veterans Committee, I see no better way to help those who leave our military than by giving them access to the benefits they have earned.
Earlier this month, the House passed four pieces of legislation that I introduced to help our veterans. Each of these pieces of legislation is a sensible solution to helping our veterans live better lives.
The VET TEC Enhancement Act, which I introduced with Congressman Kai Kahele (D-Hawai’i), an Air Force veteran, would increase funding for the Veterans Employment Course by the through VA Technical Education, a five-year pilot program that allows eligible veterans to use GI Bill-like benefits to pursue innovative vocational training programs to prepare them for future employment in the tech industry .
This program ensures that our veterans have the tools they need to obtain meaningful employment. To date, more than 1,800 veterans have completed the VET TEC program and have found well-paying jobs, with an average salary of over $ 50,000 per year. I have spoken to Ottumwa veterans groups in Davenport and there is overwhelming support for this common sense program. This is a very effective way to help veterans re-enter the civilian workforce.
Helping our veterans maximize their educational benefits is one of my top priorities. That’s why I partnered with Congressman Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey), a Navy veteran, to present the VR & e NEED Act. Each of these bills would allow veterans to suspend their education benefits in the event of a national emergency or other crisis.
Over the past year, we have seen the COVID-19 public health emergency forcing universities and colleges across the country to temporarily close their doors. By suspending their benefit timer when programs are closed, we are preserving the opportunities veterans have gained through their service in our country. Our veterans have sacrificed so much, so now it is our turn to serve them.
Finally, and most importantly, we must do more to help our veterans access the mental health services they need. I proudly joined women of Congress Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Congressman Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) to introduce Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act, named after Sergeant Brandon Ketchum of Davenport, who died by suicide in 2016 after being refused service at VA Institution in Iowa City.
This bipartisan legislation would establish a new rural access network for growth enhancing programs through IL and support further research on the mental health care needs of rural veterans. In addition to establishing three new veteran mental health programs, the legislation will lead a study on how the VA can improve mental health care for rural veterans to enable better outcomes for veterans like Sgt. Ketchum.
As a 24 year veteran of the military, I understand the sacrifices our veterans have made in the service of our country. By passing a law to support their return to civilian life and give them access to much-needed mental health and vocational training services, we are taking a great way to help our heroes.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a resident of Ottumwa, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel who served 24 years in the United States Army and represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.