Biden in Oskaloosa

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks at a Veterans Day town hall on Monday in Oskaloosa. Below, community members filter into Musco Technology Center before the event to listen to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

OSKALOOSA — While many people were off work on Monday, Former Vice President Joe Biden was hard at work holding a town hall in Oskaloosa discussing his policy for veterans and their families.

Biden began the town hall by reflecting on his son Beau Biden, former Attorney General for the state of Delaware who also served for the Delaware National Guard in 2003 and toured Iraq from 2008 to 2009. Beau Biden died in 2015 from brain cancer. Joe Biden mentioned that this presidential election would be much different had his son been here.

“The person who I anticipated running for president this year was Beau Biden, not Joe Biden,” he said

Biden said in a press release that his family understands first hand the sacrifices that not only military men and women take, but their families as well.

Biden’s plan focuses on four main goals that will allow the US to achieve our “sacred obligation” of providing “world-class health care” for our veterans and their families.

“Less than 1 percent risk everything to defend our nation, our values and everything we hold dear, and the other 99 percent of us, in my view, I think we owe them,” he said.

At the top of the list for his goals is restoring the Veterans Administration as the primary agency for veterans affairs and ensuring the well being of our vets and their families.

“If I am elected your president, it starts by protecting the VA and restoring the trust in it because the VA has to be the premier provider of the veterans’ services and their well-being and here’s why,” he said. “It’s because the VA has more specialized knowledge about the kinds of health problems that veterans have from needing prostheses to mental and physical concerns that, in fact, are unique to having served in the military.”

The other three goals on the policy are promoting veterans mental health by fighting against the suicide rate amongst our veterans and ensuring that they are seen immediately if they are having suicidal thoughts, ensuring that military men and women have more opportunities and support when they return home as civilian, and ensuring that military families, caregivers and survivors are taken care of.

“An incredible generation of warriors, World War II is the greatest generation, but no generation has gone as often and been deployed as many times,” Biden said. “They’re not looking for you to thank them, they’re looking for some respect and respect can be measured based on how we provide opportunity, how we deal with the injuries that they’ve encountered.”

During the town hall, Biden pulled out a sheet of paper listing the exact number of American soldiers that have been killed in combat every day since 9/11. As of Monday, Nov. 11, 6,900 was that number. Biden says he has staff call the Pentagon every day to get that number.

“We have a responsibility, in my view, to ensure that providing veterans with world-class Health care,” Biden said. “The world-class health care they deserve.”

At the end of the town hall, Biden opened the floor for questions. One of the questions asked was, “what can be done to help veterans get better rural access close to their home for something that doesn’t necessarily need to be treated at the VA?”

“They should be able to get that. What we don’t want to do is get into a slippery slope, though, and conclude what the president wants to do and do away with the VA,” Biden said. “Whatever your problem is if there is a hospital near you that has the capacity to deal with what your problem is, you should be able to go and have it treated and the hospital will be compensated by the VA or the federal government.”

Another question posed to Biden centered around the VA and how they are short 49,000 people, mainly doctors and specialists due to salary shortages.

“I’m going to go and erase tax cuts that we are giving to the super-wealthy, that people don’t need it,” he said. “We need to be able to pay competitive wages and one of the things we can also do is, if, in fact, a doctor is going to go through medical school and is willing to go and work for the VA for ‘X’ number of years, then wipe out their entire student debt.”

Community members had thoughts to share regarding Biden.

U.S. veteran Mike Grime is a longtime Biden supporter that said he felt that of all the Democratic candidates, Biden was the best one for the job.

“I believe he has the experience,” Grime said. “He’s been a senator, a vice president, he’s been for working-class people all of his life. He comes from that background, so I think he’s the best we can do.”

An undecided voter, Gordon Foster came out to listen and see what Biden had to say. While he didn’t know who he wanted to vote for, he did know that he wasn’t voting for Trump.

“I don’t know who I’m voting for, but I know who I’m not voting for... Trump,” When asked what he was looking for in the candidates he said, “What he’s going to do the country as far as health care and getting this country back on track from the corruption that we’re on right now.

Members in the community have criticized Biden for being out on Veteran’s day campaigning, rather than taking the day off like others. Benjamin Cobley, the Digital Director for Biden for President in Iowa this shows how committed he is to veterans issues.

“Him being out and talking about veterans issues on veterans day in Iowa is wildly important to me,” Cobley said. “It shows that he cares, it shows he knows that this is the exact moment when we need to hear it most. That’s another reason why I think he is a great choice to become our president.”

After the town hall, Dr. Lisa Ossian, a professor at William Penn and long-time supporter of Bernie Sanders shared that she came out tonight to hear what Biden had to say and she still isn’t swayed. Although Biden had several points that she feels are good, Dr. Ossian felt that he lacks the punch needed to drive everything home.”

“He talked at the NEA convention a number of years ago, and he can give a dynamic speech. I heard him one time with 10,000 teachers and he had us in the palm of his hand.” Dr. Ossian said. “I know today was a somber occasion, but I felt like he didn’t have the punch that he could. I’ve seen Jill [Biden]. Jill spoke at one of the conferences I helped organize and she can give that kind of organization. I know he’s got it in him. I just wanted to see some of those more to the point answers, he seemed a little bit rambling today and I know he may be tired from travel, I know. He seems sincere and his heart is in the right place, it just needed to come through more.”

Tiffany McDaniel can be reached at tmcdaniel@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @tmcdaniel_osky

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