Roundtable led by Congressman Fred Keller focuses on veterans issues
Veterans officials told a congressman it’s high time those who served their country receive the benefits and help they deserve.
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, acknowledged that there is a need for an improved and uniform system for helping veterans.
Those taking part in the roundtable discussion at Pennsylvania College of Technology included James Scott, director of the Perry County Veterans Office, who said all veterans should be treated the same.
“Without veterans, we wouldn’t have what we have today,” he said.
Too many veterans, he said, don’t qualify for benefits, including veterans’ health care. He asked Keller to push a bill through Congress to rectify the situation.
“We have to start looking out for our veterans and giving them their due respect,” he said.
“It’s making sure they are getting care and not just coverage,” Keller said.
Others noted the inconsistencies in the system in qualifying for veterans’ benefits.
Rich Ely, director of the Susquehanna County Veterans Affairs Office, told of a now-deceased veteran who couldn’t receive benefits resulting from exposure to Agent Orange.
He said he’d like to see his spouse receive those benefits.
James Conway, of the Mifflin County Veterans Affairs, said he knew of a veteran who for years was denied benefits due to Agent Orange exposure, but eventually received more than $400,000 from the government.
“They (government) are trying to make it right,” he said.
Keller said he’s been working on legislation to pressure the National Personal Records Center to better serve veterans. He noted the large backlog of records requests.
The National Personal Records Center is the central repository of personnel-related records for the military and the civil services of the U.S. Government. William Klaips, public affairs officer, VA Wilkes-Barre Health Care, said the regional center exists to serve those who’ve served their country. He acknowledged that veterans do encounter problems getting the help they need.
“I lot of the problems I see with veterans are the result of communication,” he said.
He assured veterans officials that his office is being pro-active in its outreach.
Keller said he learned a lot from listening to the different issues raised during the discussion.
“What we learned is beneficial,” he said. “We will put it to work.”