By Calindra Revier/Editor-in-Chief
On the fifteenth of September Jackie Speier, U.S. Representative of California’s 14th congressional district stood before Veterans in the community in an attempt to address some of their more serious concerns and issues.
Outside the room was a table where people were encouraged to sign up to meet with counselors that evening so that they could get feedback and help on their particular cases.
According to Congresswoman Speier City College boasts the most veteran students of any community college in the country at 1200 enrolled. Of that group 50 percent
are either receiving and “are certified to receive services from the Veterans Association,” Chancellor Susan Lamb said.
Speier made it abundantly clear from the beginning of the night that it was time for action. She and her associates would address problems with veteran affairs, and promised follow ups and consultations with professionals in the room adjacent.
“Everyone who is here should know that regardless of whether or not I represent you technically, as far as I’m concerned I represent you.
Your needs are ones I want to deliver on,” Speier said. “We are here today because you served our country and it’s time for me and the members of Congress to serve you.”
Issues facing veterans in civilian life are complicated. As the number of post-911 vets increases, the pressure to handle those cases – and cases from before 911 be a struggle for the VA. This was a common theme brought up in the question and answer section of the evening.
“Civilian benefits is just part of what we owe you. We owe you a top notch college education. The GI Bill provides the richest set of benefits ever in the history of this country,” Speier said.
“Everyone who is here though should know, that regardless whether or not I represent you technically as far as I’m concerned I represent you, because your needs are ones I want to deliver on.”
– Congresswoman Jackie Speier
The VA has gone from 29 thousand claims unprocessed to 3 thousand claims unprocessed since 2012, said Speier and the turnaround response time continues to improve.
Jonathan Irizarry, Vice President of the Veterans Alliance club at City College, served in the U.S. Navy for 4 years as an aircraft mechanic. Irizarry finishing his degree in Urban Studies before transferring to San Francisco State in the spring.
“There is a lot people could learn from veterans. We have a lot to teach because we’ve experienced things that the everyday person hasn’t,” Irizarry said.
“Here, I think the best thing the school can do and invest in is to push with opening the performing arts theater,” Irizarry explained. “For veterans coming to San Francisco, you expect to be able to express yourself through the arts. For the City College that represents San Francisco to not have an actual efficient building for the arts, it’s a little bit disappointing and discouraging for me as a veteran.”
The Walter S. Newman Veteran’s Resource Center hosts the Veterans Alliance Club.
The namesake, Walter Newman, served in WW2 and was shot in the chest during D-day. He was awarded the purple heart. He passed away recently and was survived by his wife Ellen who continues his philanthropic legacy.
Among the panelists in attendance were Julianna Boor, appointed about a year ago at the VA in Oakland and Bonnie Graham who is the director of San Francisco’s VA medical services.
Also Navy Veteran and business manager Mark Leach, Patti Pace director of NPower, Navy Veteran James Roe who intenternned for Patti and U.S. Navy Veteran James Lucas the Chair of the Genentech diversity team.
Finally Coreena Conley the Chief Executive Officer of the Veterans Outreach Center and Chris Raschke a Marine Veteran who works for the Network of Care. All were there to discuss opportunities for veterans such as job placement and programs.
“There is a lot people could learn from veterans. We have a lot to teach because we’ve experienced things that the everyday person hasn’t.”
– Jonathan Irizarry
After the Panel was introduced, the rest of the time was allotted for answering questions. A line formed through the middle of the room and men and women hoping to have their issues heard approached the microphone.
Some spoke in frustration and the room was tense. Others spoke with appreciation. Emotions were high but mainly everyone was respectful, and Speier seemed dedicated to every case.
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Send an email to: Calindra Revier