INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 9, 2015) - Fourteen years after 9/11, thousands of Hoosier soldiers have returned home from war and thousands more will return in the coming months.
Former service members are raising concerns and arguing Indiana's Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t ready to take care of returning soldiers.
“We show up for veterans day parades, we have Fourth of July parades, everybody’s waving flags,” said Retired Brigadier General Jim Bauerle.
But Bauerle says patriotism isn’t enough.
“Those things don’t help a veteran at all. Those are feel-good pats on the back, but they don’t help you when you’re hungry, or they don’t help you when you can’t get a job,” he said.
Bauerle is the Legislative Chairman for the Military Veterans’ Coalition of Indiana. The group advocates for enhanced help for Hoosier veterans.
He was not at all surprised by a 2014 study done for the Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs that revealed Indiana ranks among the worst states in the country for funding its veterans.
Oregon, Alabama, and Maine all have fewer veterans than Indiana, but each spends far more per vet. The study found Indiana spends just $3.67 per year, per veteran.
Bauerle blames in part, a lack of funding from the Statehouse.
“No exposure to the public in what they’re doing; what we have observed is they’ve hired more people and they’ve raised the salaries of some of the people that they had right at the state capital here in Indianapolis,” he said.
In a statement from IDVA Deputy Director Russ Eaglin, drastic changes have been made since the study’s findings were released: expanded partnerships with veterans organizations, a General Assembly budget this year that approved double the funding for IDVA and expanded services for Hoosier Heroes, like marital counseling and assistance with childcare.
Some lawmakers this week said improving help for Hoosier veterans will be a top priority in this year’s legislative session.