A local group of military veterans plan to detail what they claim is a lack of service from the Bartholomew County Veteran Affairs office at today’s County Commissioners meeting.
Larry D. Durnil, an Air Force veteran involved with several local veterans organizations, does not use the services offered by the county veteran affairs office. But he has compiled complaints from veterans who do, and he believes they are being short-changed.
One grievance that comes up repeatedly is the lack of response to requests for transportation to the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis, Durnil said.
He knows of one World War II veteran in his 90s who became so fed up with the local veteran affairs office that he drove himself to the Indianapolis veterans hospital.
“The vets of this county deserve better and we’re not getting it,” Durnil said.
The transportation problems irritate Rick Caldwell, an Army veteran and commander of local AMVETS Post 509.
Caldwell is one of the volunteer drivers for the county’s veteran affairs office. He said there have been times that veterans have needed rides to Indianapolis and the office never notified him.
“They’re turning people away, I do know that,” he said.
One veteran told Caldwell the Bartholomew County office suggested he hitch a ride with the Jennings County veterans van as it passed through Columbus bound for Indianapolis.
“To me, that’s turning a veteran away,” Caldwell said.
Durnil has a petition with the signatures of 35 to 40 local veterans that he hopes will spur county officials to find a solution to the problem.
Matt Taylor, director of Bartholomew County Veteran Affairs, was unavailable for comment Friday.
County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop, who said he and the other commissioners have heard complaints about veteran affairs for about a year and a half, admits it is likely time to do something to address them.
“We probably are a little slower to react than some people are,” Lienhoop said.
“We want to give people the benefit of the doubt.”
“We’re going to listen, we realize that we may end up having some personnel issues, but we do want to listen to them (the veterans) first,” he said.
“We owe it the veterans,” Lienhoop said.
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