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Perspective: Helping our veterans

Perspective: Helping our veterans

June 7th, 2014 by U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemekyer, R-Mo. in News

They are images both poignant and tragic to all Americans. The first, captured in a photograph, depicts five U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The second comes in the form of a 200-year-old poem written after the British bombardment of Baltimore by Francis Scott Key in which our "flag was still there."

Our flag is more than just a cloth of red, white and blue. To me, it is a living embodiment of what it means to be an American. To those who have served our nation, our flag has served as a source of inspiration when liberty was at risk. And too many lives were cut short defending what our flag represents. Flag Day, which this year falls on June 14, is a time when Americans reflect on the foundations of our nation's freedom. It also is a time to remember our loyalty to the nation and to reaffirm our belief in liberty and justice while observing our nation's unity. Across the nation, there will be flag-raising ceremonies, services, musical salutes, street parades and awards for special recognition.

At the center of many of these events will be our veterans, who know first-hand the price that has been paid for Old Glory. Unfortunately, we learned recently of just how ugly that bureaucracy can become in the form of the recent Veterans Administration scandal. While we have seen a necessary change at the top level with the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, there is still a need to make comprehensive reforms to a system of care that has been failing our veterans for too long.

As your voice in Congress and because of my experience with our veterans, including my father, I have made it a top priority from day one to ensure our veterans are the top priority. Between 2009 and 2013, my office has handled 402 VA cases and we have had significant success in helping these folks get the answers they need and the help they are looking for.

We have been able to help veterans get their medication issues resolved, helped them obtain medical records, and ensure they receive their medication to the correct address in a timely matter. We have helped veterans with the claims for compensation by assisting in getting medical appointments and helping filing paperwork for claims to be processed correctly. Another service we have provided is aiding veterans get the proper documents to the Board of Veterans Appeals. This is important so cases can be completed, that otherwise wouldn't have been, because the VA did not have the correct address of the veteran. Among the other issues we have dealt with include helping veterans file paperwork to other VA Regional Offices outside of the state of Missouri because they moved to Missouri during the claim process.

My office has dealt with 198 cases involving the Department of Defense through 2013 in which we were able to obtain 68 military awards including medals, ribbons, and buttons for those who earned it during their service dating from World War II and through the Korean War and Vietnam War. We have also helped veterans obtain critical forms and have assisted in getting their medical records corrected.

My staff has held four Veterans Workshops, the most recent scheduled for Lake Ozark on June 27. These are incredibly important as they make our staff available to veterans' organizations and other groups to ensure that they receive the services they need and their stories and voices are heard.

We are proud of our efforts but we know that more can be done. Every single member of my staff has at one time or other worked with a veteran, from our interns up to our senior staff members. For us, every day is Flag Day when it comes to our veterans, our active military and the citizens of the 3rd District who put their confidence in me to represent the District and our nation. It is a solemn responsibility and one that is represented in our flag and our commitment to freedom and liberty.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 573-635-7232.

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