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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Veterans must never be treated as disposable

Our veterans, some 31,000-plus in number found to be living in northern and northwestern Minnesota, and their families, should have care as close to their homes as possible. All the current homes are located in the southern part of the state with the exception of the home in Silver Bay in an extreme easterly direction. All pre-existing homes are located two, three and four hours away from "us". The greatest weakness translates to the greatest need: to force soldiers and their families to travel hundreds of miles for residential and continuum of care medical and mental health services is egregious. We are located closest to the three largest reservations in the state with our many American Indian veterans.

Bemidji has rapidly developed into a regional medical center under the Sanford Health umbrella. We have a Veterans community-based outpatient clinic, a requisite for the establishment of a veterans home. Our very distance to the nearest VA hospital should put the Bemidji area at the top of the list for the next veterans home in the state. Sanford Health has generously donated land on its Bemidji campus on which to build the home. Our community has resources to support a veterans home. A close-by veterans home in our area will facilitate honoring the moral obligation of taking care of veterans in a continuum of care within and beyond the walls of the northern Minnesota veterans home throughout their lifetimes.

As we define ourselves, we have identified statistics and demographics related to veterans as to primary care needs; aging and care needs; mental health related to post-traumatic stress disorder; traumatic brain injury; and age onset diabetes. Veterans must never be treated as disposable.

There is a substantial waiting list for admissions to the five existing veterans homes in the state. If Minnesota is going to address the needs of our veterans who put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms, Minnesota needs to build another home. We have made the case for our location. There is a huge void of services in the area for veterans home services. The answer to the location of the next home should be fundamental. Beltrami County/Bemidji should be at the top of the list for the establishment of the next veterans home in Minnesota.

The Legislature should be poised to act now. The need is persistent and long-standing. Our 2017 Legislative contingent is positively disposed to accomplish the desired end, and we thank them for their diligence and commitment to veterans.

Joe Vene