MARQUETTE - U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, heard from local veterans Friday afternoon as they aired their concerns over the Veteran's Administration's handling of their military benefits.
One veteran told a story concerning unusual blood tests causing trouble between him and his doctor. Another said he was not receiving the free medical care he had been promised after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.
"Where's the free medical care we were promised?" the man asked. "When I signed on that dotted line and I crawled through the rice paddies in Korea and Vietnam, nobody said anything about if I wanted to quit I could quit. But the government can quit."
U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, speaks with a group of veterans inside the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette Friday afternoon. Benishek listened as the group aired some concerns over their military benefits. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Benishek said he was pleased to hear from area veterans, since he could take their issues back to Washington and find ways to make the VA run more efficiently.
"That's the kind of stuff I love to hear because if we wanted to have them testify at the committee, what is the VA gong to say then?" Benishek said after the forum. "What exactly is going on there? What is this about? What is this program?"
Benishek made the stop in the veterans' home after visiting Negaunee High School and North Star Academy to raise awareness of a program facilitated by the Library of Congress that is seeking to record the oral history of U.S. veterans before they are gone.
Benishek interviewed veterans in front of the students as an example.
"It's a great way to get high school kids and veterans together," Benishek said of the program. "It's good for the veterans. it's good for the kids. So, we're just promoting that by doing a couple of the interviews at the high school, maybe to encourage the kids to do it."
Benishek also discussed newly-introduced legislation that would, according to a press release issued by his office, "inject some accountability into the VA system by requiring the VA Secretary to determine who within the bureaucracy is responsible for fixing a public health or safety problem after the problem is identified by the Inspector General."
Benishek told the group of veterans the bill makes it easier to fire incompetent employees who are unable to make progress on issues identified by the Inspector General.
Benishek will be in Iron Mountain today to dedicate the circle drive at the Iron Mountain VA, which will be named after an Iron Mountain security guard who was killed in Iraq. Benishek will attend Memorial Day events in Iron River Monday.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org