By Stacie Van Dyke
The future of funding for veterans is in jeopardy ad Grand Forks vets are voicing their concern. Veterans shared their worries with Congressman Rick Berg at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday morning.
Health care tops the list of veterans' concerns, but they also told Congressman Berg they're worried about possible cuts to benefits they've already earned.
Berg listened as veterans and veteran service organizations voiced concerns about possible cuts to their benefits.
"In 2013, there will be an automatic cut of $1.2 trillion," Berg said.
"My main concern is the way Congress and the Senate cut. When they need to reduce funding, the first thing they go to for the most part is the military. Military is very important and defense spending. A lot of these people, myself, served 25 years in the Air Force. We deserve, we earned the right. If anybody should be cut it, should be funding for things that don't really matter," said Larry Jones, a retired member of the US Air Force.
Local vets also called for the expansion of Telehelp and rural outreach to help those with post traumatic stress disorder. They worry about the future of the veteran's care system, called Tricare, and potential changes to their retirement.
"The experience of your military is going downhill," veteran Mark Mezydlo said.
Congress has been called on to cut specific military benefits to pay for the last decade of war, including eliminating the 20-year military retirement plan.
"I was just concerned about the experience level that you would have if you only had people staying in for eight or ten years. You gotta count on those guys to fight wars and stuff and if you don't have that experience, the country could be in some serious trouble," Mezydlo said.
"We owe what we have in this country to our military, so being here today and listening to them means a lot to me," Berg said.
It was also suggested to Congressman Berg to create an advisory group of North Dakota vets to help focus on the state's unique needs like the lack of medical facilities in many rural areas.