Loebsack veterans

Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — Congressman Dave Loebsack’s “Serving those who served” workshop was not your typical workshop.

He provided no powerpoints or visual aids that one can typically find at a workshop. This workshop was more of an informal discussion where Loebsack, employees of Veterans Affairs and veterans discussed issues that affect veterans.

The primary issue was mental health.

Loebsack said the Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act he introduced in 2016. The act was inspired by Ketchum, a veteran who told his psychiatrist at a VA medical center in Iowa City that he needed to be admitted to the medical center’s psychiatric ward because he was in a crisis.

Ketchum was turned away because he was not considered “high risk enough” and turned away. Hours later, Ketchum took his own life. Loebsack said 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

“One death of a veteran of suicide is too many,” Loebsack said. “This is a national health crisis that must be addressed.”

Loebsack said many veterans typically face post traumatic stress disorder and other serious mental health issues upon returning home.

“This isn’t okay,” Loebsack said. “Our government needs to fix a problem before they create another one. A job of a member of Congress must make sure the laws are implemented properly. If they’re not implemented properly, then there’s no point in having laws.”

Ron Carter, a veteran who attended the workshop agreed with Loebsack. A few years back, a friend of his who was also a veteran, took his life because he was not admitted into psychiatric care.

“I’m glad I came today,” he said. “These are pretty serious issues that can’t be ignored. We need change.”

Heath Streck, Associate Director of Operations for the Iowa City VA Health Care System, has heard many stories similar to those of Ketchum and Carter’s friend. He believes in change.

“We want veterans to come see us,” Streck said. “We know what you go through. We are here to treat you.”