Posted at: 11/11/2013 5:33 PM
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It was a chance to hear from those who could feel the greatest impact.
On Veteran’s Day, one of Minnesota's most influential policy-makers visited to Austin to see how the country can assist our veterans.
"Part of the reason I went to the Senate was to make sure your service is honored, and honored in the right way," Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken told a group of veterans gathered at the Austin American Legion.
It was that goal that brought Franken to Austin -- a chance to hear from veterans what the government is doing right, and what needs improvement.
“They could be doing more," said Austin veteran Arnie Earl.
“What we do run into a lot of times is some long, long wait times for people to use the VA hospital for eye glasses, hearing aids, things like that, any kind of surgery," said Mower County Veteran’s Service Officer Wayne Madson.
“We have a backlog now, a lot of the backlog is from Viet Nam," Franken told the Austin veterans.
“They used to have contracts with local vendors, and if we could get back to some of that it would help," Veteran’s Service Officer Wayne Madson said.
It’s something lawmakers are working on: "Some of those provisions are in the newest veterans bill, and we hope they get through very fast," Franken said.
“The community based outreach clinic, that's going to be opening in Albert Lea, that's a step forward also," Wayne Madson told us.
That clinic is scheduled to open in 2014.
"I would like to tell him ‘thank you’ for getting that cemetery over in the eastern part of the state" veteran Arnie Earl said. Ground was broken last week for the state's second veterans cemetery, this one near Preston.
"A lot of programs like hire veterans, that's going in a positive direction," Veteran’s service Officer Wayne Madson said.
"The veterans are waking up some of them guys who've been sleeping for a long time, and I think it's about time," said Viet Nam vet Arnie Earl.
“We're only free as a country and we're only as good as those people willing to sacrifice themselves in favor of our freedom," added veteran Norm Hecimovich.