This is Veterans Day, a day to honor those who served in the nation's armed forces. Some public offices are closed. Many schools are holding events to honor local veterans, while businesses are offering giveaways in appreciation of military service.
The most conspicuous of displays, however, will come from politicians eager to appear supportive of veterans. Some-times, those public displays are as far as the support goes.
A story we recently shared on these pages is a good example: Nawid Moshref, a Homestead High School graduate who was injured in Iraq while serving in the Army, is still waiting on state officials to make good on a promise to honor Purple Heart recipients with college tuition support. He unnecessarily incurred thousands of dollars in student debt as the result of errors made by state employees.
Moshref's story is one of bureaucratic indifference. Purdue University's veterans service staff initially gave him incorrect information regarding benefits to which he was rightfully due; the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and Indiana Commission for Higher Education have repeatedly failed to explain why the state can't make it right or even respond to his questions.
Since The Journal Gazette published his story last month, Moshref received an email from Congressman Jim Banks' staff that sums up the failure of the two state agencies in accepting responsibility.
“Congressman Banks had placed inquiries with the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) and Department of Education (DOE),” wrote Andy Porter, Wounded Warrior Fellow in Banks' Fort Wayne office. “The DVA had the inquiry sent over to DOE. Then DOE responded with the following:
'This should be rerouted to Indiana's Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The Purple Heart Benefit Remission of Fees appears to be a state administered program – https://www.in.gov/dva/state-of-indiana-benefits-and-services/tuition-and-fee-exemption/.'
“Being that Congressman Banks does not have oversight on state benefits I will have to direct you to your state legislators.”
That's a dead end, however. The Purple Heart veteran's inquiries to state Rep. Chris Judy and Sen. Justin Busch have failed to produce results.
It's left to Gov. Eric Holcomb to step up. The governor has ultimate responsibility over both the Commission for Higher Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs. He should be especially eager to correct course at the latter agency, with its record of scandal in allocating benefits and in a questionable decision to hire a former lawmaker. He also should be eager to improve on the performance of the state's higher education agency, given the declining percentage of Indiana residents with college degrees.
Holcomb, a former Navy intelligence officer, knows better than most the sacrifices veterans have made, and Moshref embodies what should be an inspiring Hoosier example. He's an Afghan refugee who found a home in Indiana and enlisted after 9/11 to serve the country that took his family in. He served and was injured in Iraq, returning to study for a career in medicine.
This Veterans Day, the governor could prove Indiana's support for veterans amounts to more than empty words.