When I turned eighteen in 1973, I made the most important decision of my life and enlisted in the United States Army, inspired by my father’s service in the United States Air Force. I served in the Army for twenty-four years; first enlisted, then as an active duty nurse, reservist nurse, and doctor, and ultimately retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.Serving your country does not come without sacrifice. Men and women in uniform go months without seeing loved ones, and some of our veterans experience PTSD and serious health issues as a result of their service.
When I decided to run for Congress, I made it my top priority to put forth legislation to make sure our veterans get the treatment and work they have earned and deserve. One of the first bills I introduced would increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs High Technology Program that would provide veterans with education sought after by employers and has led to record high-quality employment after 6 months of training.
Additionally, one of the first bills that I had signed into law was to ensure each Veteran Affairs medical facility would be equipped with an on-site pharmacy where veterans may safely dispose of medications.
This past week I had the honor of inviting my colleague and fellow veteran, Representative Mike Bost (IL-12), to Iowa to meet with veterans and Veteran Service Organizations to discuss what we can do in Congress to improve the lives of veterans across the country.
While touring different facilities, such as the Abbey Addiction Treatment Center in Bettendorf, and hosting roundtables, Representative Bost and I learned that there is still much more work that we need to do to support our veterans.
We, as a nation, need to ensure that following their service our veterans are equipped with the skills needed to seamlessly assimilate into civilian life and find employment to provide for themselves and their families. Veterans make extraordinary employees, which is why then Gov Branstad launched the Homestead Iowa program which continues to attract veterans and their families to Iowa for workplace opportunities.
We need to make sure that treatment centers, such as the Abbey, are equipped with the necessary tools and resources to make sure that our veterans can easily access the care they need and facilitate the educational and employment opportunities available to them.
I will continue fighting to ensure care for our veterans is more efficient, more effective, and more accessible. They’ve earned it!
Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a resident of Ottumwa who currently represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.