As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, more and more veterans will be returning home to Indiana.
That will put a strain on the state’s already stretched network of veteran services.
“People want to say thanks,” said Kent Laudeman, a veteran and the director of the Robert L. Miller Veteran’s Center in South Bend.
“But hey, I need more than thanks. I need some regulation and structure as far as my life is concerned. That’s what is happening for most veterans when they redeploy back and are going through transition,” Laudeman said.
A review of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs by an outside party in 2014 found 21 ways the state was deficient in providing services. The report says the Department of Veterans Affairs does little outreach and delivers inconsistent service for returning vets.
But officials say they’re taking recommendations from that student to improve the Department’s performance.
“It’s a working in progress,” said Russ Eaglin, the deputy director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. “We’ve implemented a number of recommendations from the report.”
“Many of the recommendations I’ve seen implemented, like naming a women’s veterans coordinator, which I supported and am glad we’ve done, but we’ve kind of picked things that don’t cost money,” said State Senator John Broden, D-South Bend.
Officials with the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs say that Governor Pence has doubled their bi-annual budget, which allowed them to increase their staff, but it make take awhile to see results.
“We need to ramp up, I think,” Laudeman said. “And we need to make sure that the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs has a plan for the state of Indiana.”
The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs says it will focus more on extending its outreach, so that veterans are aware of the benefits they can get.
This is an issue that’s separate from some of the problems that the VA has been having on a federal level, but in a statement to WSBT-22, Rep. Jackie Walorski, who is on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, says the allegations are concerning.
She says that even though there’s been some progress made recently, the fight is far from over.