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House committee evaluates funding needs for Missouri's veterans

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A Missouri House committee met Thursday to discuss funding needs for the state's military veterans.

Several veterans testified before the House Interim Committee on Veterans Services, hoping to persuade lawmakers to increase funding for medical expenses, housing, and other needs.

Richard Hagart of the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations told lawmakers that there's a growing need to care for America's younger war vets, who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs, brain trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Full-time institutional care is not required in many of these instances...therefore we must consider providing assisted living quarters, in-home nursing services, and quality medical and psychological care to enable these veterans to be productive citizens," Hagart said.

Housing, especially for older veterans, is critical.

State Representative David Day (R, Dixon) says there's a list of about a thousand waiting to get into veterans' homes in Missouri.

"We have cases now where people are in veterans' homes, who wouldn't necessarily need to be there...they could be in assisted living care, or if we had home health care, (it) would free up that bed, because they could possibly be at home," Day said.

Some of the veterans testifying suggested new taxes could help pay the costs.

Day says it's possible, but it wouldn't be easy with other looming budget priorities and a G.O.P. majority that doesn't like raising taxes.

A report on Missouri's funding needs for veterans is expected to be released before the start of the 2008 legislative session.

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