ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - State and federal lawmakers in Minnesota marked Veterans Day on Thursday by urging the passage of legislation to bring more Vet Centers to Minnesota.
Speaking from the St. Paul Vet Center, Rep. Dean Phillips says North Dakota has more of the centers, which provide mental health and other support for veterans, than Minnesota, which is home to only a few facilities.
"I can tell you that veterans feel very at home at a Vets Center," said Veterans Services Commissioner Larry Herke. "It's a different atmosphere than a VA Hospital or a clinic."
Aside from the sign above the door, it's a fairly nondescript office suite in a corner of downtown St. Paul. But the work done inside is anything but unimportant.
"Getting more of these Vets Centers around Minnesota is a huge priority for me," said Rep. Angie Craig.
There are three Veterans Centers in Minnesota, two in the Twin Cities and one in Duluth, that provide offer mental health services to vets, the counseling and support to help reintegrate after they come home.
"It is personal for me," said Rep. Phillips. "My dad did not come home from Vietnam."
Phillips, in May, introduced the Vets Center Support Act to figure out how to build more and how to get mental health services to veterans wherever they are.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, along with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, are introducing a similar bill in the U.S. Senate. The bill would add 10 additional states, including Minnesota, to be eligible for at least one additional Vet Center, which would provide mental health counseling to veterans, survivors of military sexual assault, and Gold Star families.
"I think about the tens of thousands who came home from Vietnam who were mistreated, uncared for, and struggle to this day," said Phillips.
On a tour of this facility on this Veterans Day, Representatives Phillips and Craig, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Governor Walz heard the same appeal from Minnesota’s Commissioner of Veterans Services.
"But we need more… there’s really a gap in the southern, western, and northern part of the state that needs to be filled."
Those who served, he says, deserve the care. On Veterans Day, all deserve to be remembered. For Amy Klobuchar, she thinks of her father.
"I miss him very much, he’s buried at Fort Snelling, and I think every one of us has veterans that we love and veterans that we think of today, but I’m thinking of my dad," said Klobuchar.