Plymouth Vietnam vets meet with congresswoman Jackie Walorski - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Plymouth Vietnam vets meet with congresswoman Jackie Walorski

Jackie Walorski visited veterans in Plymouth on Tuesday Jackie Walorski visited veterans in Plymouth on Tuesday
PLYMOUTH - After decades of neglect and oversight, it seems Uncle Sam is finally turning his ear, making good on the promise to take care of soldiers returning from war.

The VA has announced more than 60 Indiana counties will be getting $4.6 million in grants. The money will go towards fighting homelessness among former and returning soldiers. This comes on the heels of the a sweeping bill last week to overhaul the VA.

In Plymouth, Indiana Congresswoman (Republican) Jackie Walorski met with local veterans to talk about what is, and what isn't, working in her district.

"So help me I'm not gonna walk into a hospital unless I need it, said Vietnam army veteran Larry Kareichbaum. His kidneys are failing, something he attributes to Agent Orange exposure. Now he visits a hospital three times a week for dialysis.

"I'm not a beggar," said Kareichbaum. "But I gave my youth to the government. And I was proud of it. And now I'm an old man and I got dialysis, and health problems. I'd like a little bit of that back."

Kareichbaum joined three other veterans at senior living facility Miller's Merry Manor in Plymouth today to meet with Walorski.

"Most states in this country can't relate to the number of veterans that Indiana has," said Walorski. "Which means that we take it seriously."    

Walorski sits on the committee charged with overhauling the VA.

"Just because the president signed the bill," said Walorski. "And we have a new VA secretary, doesn't mean this fight is over. I sit on the committee of jurisdiction. Our work is just beginning."

One of Walorski's biggest issues moving forward will be getting younger vets to enroll in the VA as soon as they leave active service, even if they're healthy and have private insurance.

Another gap Walorski says the government needs to fix is access to care in rural areas.  

"You just don't go down to Indianapolis to Roudebush and walk in the door, turn around, and walk out two minutes later," said Vietnam army veteran Roy Thomas. "You're there all day."

Thomas suffers from oral and throat cancer - also likely caused by Agent Orange exposure. He served in the same infantry alongside Kareichbaum. He says his fellow vets should be able to visit local hospitals if they live further than 40 miles from a VA center.

"There ain't no doctors here that can't do whatever..." said Thomas.

Despite a homecoming from Vietnam fraught with under-appreciation and neglect, all of the vets said they felt hopeful after Walorski's visit.
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