Governor drafts veterans into her war on the poor

March 4, 2023 5:43 pm

The governor has drafted Iowa veterans into her war on the poor. (Stock photo via Canva)

Yolando Loveless, veteran of 30 years of military service and the director of the Veterans Affairs Commission of Black Hawk County, says we have approximately 7,200 veterans living in our county with 1,900 of them eligible to receive additional benefits because of service-related disabilities. The program is overseen by the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those services include financial support for those who are impoverished or face an immediate emergency for such matters as dental care, funds to replace a broken furnace, money to travel to Veterans Hospitals, car repair, counseling and a host of other life crises that a healthy and well financed individual would handle without outside help. Suicide prevention is a frequent and constant concern, just as it is nationally wherever vets gather.

In Iowa, the money for local offices to perform their services does not come from state tax dollars. Instead, the source is an annual allotment from the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. That cash is received from our gaming industry, which makes mandatory annual contributions. The fund provides and supports many projects across the state. The amount in the fund as of this year was $36 million.

As you may have heard, this year the Veterans Commission ran out of money, but Gov. Kim Reynolds acted quickly to meet the challenge. As is her custom, she did not use state tax dollars to support our veterans but took $400,000 of federal COVID relief money instead. She and her commission director took further steps to ensure that this would not happen again, even though no additional funds were provided.

The reason the trust fund went broke is the need for the services from the local vets offices around the state increased. Black Hawk County, by December 2022, had received $2,991,639. Polk County, as you would expect, was the largest recipient at $12,917,230. What happened to the fund was that the smaller, rural, counties started using the services, the need for those services increased, and the fund was not financed equal to the needs of our veterans.

The governor’s answer was simply to cut services. Not that the services are not needed, but the state simply would not pay for them. The disabled service people, the ones who suffered significant injuries, health care problems and mental health issues, just got drafted into the governor’s war on the poor. It used to be that you were eligible for assistance if you were below 300% of the poverty level on the income scale. Reynolds cut it to 200% and capped lifetime benefits at $10,000, of which not more than $5,000 could be received in one year.

The governor likes to campaign claiming she is making Iowans “free” and we should enjoy Iowa with our freedom. With all respects to the governor and her comptroller, I would like to suggest she has not given us our liberty.

My freedom comes from the fellow that dodged bullets on a sandy island in the South Pacific or the pilot who flew the bomber over Berlin, hoping to finish his 25th mission so he could go home. My freedom comes from those that marched in the snowy mountains of Korea, who sweated in the swamps of Vietnam, tried to avoid ambushes and surprise attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. When this nation felt that our freedom was at stake, the men and women of our armed services are the ones who made our freedom possible, not the governor of the state of Iowa.

I am told that the military — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard — all believe that a fellow service person is never left on a field of battle. I guess we should amend our state motto for veterans: Welcome back to Iowa. Now you are on your own.

With this action by the governor, we should send them the letter draftees used to receive that started, “Greetings and Salutations,” you have been drafted in the governor’s army for the war on the poor.

This column was originally published by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and is republished with permission.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dave Nagle
Dave Nagle

Dave Nagle, of Cedar Falls, is a former Iowa Democratic Party state chairman and three-term U.S. congressman from Iowa.