That’s evidence of the “unevenness” of the process, Loebsack said.
But for veteran Kenney Matthew Sr., finding a job was his biggest obstacle after returning from the Vietnam War, as he was unable to get a position with the Ottumwa Fire Department.
“I was over-trained,” Matthew said. “They should’ve hired me anyway, but they didn’t. This city has a problem hiring veterans. I feel veterans are getting a dirty deal, especially the ones who are living out in tents, in cardboard shacks ... around the county that have good job skills that need to be brought in so they can be utilized for everyone’s benefit. What about an orientation class before they get out of the service, to know what services they’ll have available for them?”
Loebsack said those programs now exist for today’s returning soldiers — but it’s often condensed into a short time frame.
Ottumwa Mayor Frank Flanders said a discussion needs to happen within the City Council to see what kind of programs could be made available to veterans.
“If nothing else, we at least need to have a system where we give veterans hiring preferences,” Flanders said.
Jarrod Diers, a recent Army veteran, said there are not enough physicians for returning veterans.
“What will happen when the war’s over?” he said. “We’re going to have a surge of soldiers. What’s going to happen to these other veterans that get bounced out of the system for nothing?”
The system will become increasingly flooded with veterans due to the military’s downsizing in the next few years, Loebsack said, some of which is due to the “sequester, the other is by getting out of Afghanistan and largely out of Iraq.”
Tens of thousands of men and women will be returning home by January, he said.