This past week, Progress Iowa, a statewide organization representing over 70,000 progressive Iowans, issued a stunning research report on the legislature’s treatment of Iowa veterans. The report details 25 ways in which Iowa Republican Legislators voted against the interests of Iowa veterans. The last legislative session forced severe cuts to various veterans’ programs. The GOP legislators ignored Democrats’ objections and refused to listen or negotiate on these destructive Republican bills. They rammed through bills that slashed services and programs benefiting Iowa veterans. In addition, many veterans were stripped of their rights as a result of the Republicans’ attacks on collective bargaining.
The actions of the Iowa Republican Party demonstrate their disappointing commitment to veterans. Never the less, Governor Kim Reynolds continues to give Republicans credit for programs that aid veterans.
“It’s been a priority of ours for a long time,” Reynolds said about veterans’ services in Iowa. “We help with education, we help with home ownership. We launched a home-based Iowa initiative that really says to our veterans that Iowa welcomes you, especially as we’re seeing a draw-down in our military.”
Let’s look at the facts from Progress Iowa’s research report. It clearly disproves her claims that veterans are a priority for Republican lawmakers. Reynolds claims they help with home ownership, but she couldn’t prevent her Republican colleagues from slashing the funding from the program.
Progress Iowa reported, “The Veterans Home Ownership Program provides $5,000 to veterans to be used for house down payments and closing costs, but was reduced by $500,000 in the Health and Human Services budget, hindering their ability to become homeowners. The Governor vetoed this cut, while Republicans in the House and Senate voted for it.”
Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler weighed in on these cuts. “The cuts to the veterans’ home ownership program would hurt Iowa’s efforts to recruit and retain returning veterans and is counter-productive to the efforts put forth by the Home Base Iowa project.”
Significant budget cuts were made to a number of specific veterans’ programs. There are veteran county commission offices set up across Iowa to assist veterans and provide information on available services. House and Senate Republicans cut $42,000 from it.
The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs provides programs, services, and benefits to veterans and their families. Republicans cut that critical program by $8,000.
Many of Iowa veterans and their spouses depend on the Iowa Veterans Home for their critical care. This facility provides essential care, yet Republicans slashed $88,000 from the home’s finances.
Democratic Representative and military veteran Jerry Kearns of Keokuk warned that these cuts will adversely hurt Iowa veterans. “I am concerned with the irresponsible actions taken that negatively affect our state’s veterans in this past session. The detrimental actions against veterans can be found in underfunding services to veterans such as the Iowa Veteran’s Home and by decimating collective bargaining rights for our public employees since veterans make up a considerable share of that workforce.”
The stripping of collective bargaining rights that Kearns describes is especially damaging to veterans. Over 36,000 of the 180,000 public service employees that had their bargaining rights stolen are veterans. Every working Iowan deserves to be honored and respected. The Republicans harsh treatment of these hard-working veterans is especially unacceptable.
Governor Reynolds boasts of the Iowa Home Based plans goal of matching veterans with good paying jobs. How does she justify the Republican legislatures preempting four counties in Iowa from raising the minimum wage? According to the Economic Policy Institute, one in five veterans would have seen an increase in their wages had the Republicans not overruled local county efforts to raise wages.
Over 19,000 veterans depend on Iowa Medicaid for their life-saving health care. The Republicans’ privatization of Medicaid has resulted in inadequate care and untimely service for many of these veterans.
Is this the thanks these Iowa men and women deserve for serving their country? Iowa veterans risked their lives for us. Isn’t it every Iowan’s responsibility to guarantee they have adequate health care, good paying jobs, adequate services and basic worker rights? Iowa Representative Todd Prichard, an Iraq war veteran, summed up the actions of the past legislature.
“Veterans deserve better than just kind words from elected officials. Veterans deserve good paying jobs, quality health care, and opportunities to succeed,” Prichard said. “Republicans like to pay lip service to taking care of veterans, however, many of their votes were nothing more than an attack on those who served our country. We must do better by our military families and for every Iowan.”
by Rick Smith