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On Tuesday United States Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the first chairwoman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Committee, traveled from Washington D.C. to the First Coast with United States Congressman John Rutherford to explore military sites and meet with local military organizations in an effort to bring more resources to veterans.
They both acknowledged to First Coast News that there need to be changes at the Veterans Affairs Clinic, starting with minimizing travel for veterans in need of medical help, increasing resources for mental health, like the veteran suicide prevention hotline, and increasing funding for military buildings.
The bipartisan duo met with local military organization leaders at the Clara White Mission in Downtown Jacksonville to brainstorm ideas.
"There is a lot of toxicity in Washington, and I think most people feel like the two parties can't work together, but we're here to tell you we absolutely can, the Florida delegation is united in taking care of the needs of Floridians," said Wasserman Schultz.
Horace Johnson is a retired Air Force airmen. He is a temporary resident at the Clara White Mission. He says he's struggled with help from the V.A. for decades.
"I want them to think of me like they think of their child, what would you want your child to have," said Johnson.?
While he spread his wings overseas, he says the real battle started when he returned home.
"They’ll send you over there to fight for our country and as soon as you get back they’ll make you jump through hoops like you’re trying to get something for free."
After losing a civilian job, he became homeless.
"They make you feel forgotten, abandoned, like your service didn’t mean anything, like you’re just a number on a paper."
He’s getting back on his feet at the Clara White Mission and, since asking for it since 1983, he says he finally has a dentist appointment covered through the V.A.
"Your smile is a big part of your life, without that, it just makes it hard."
His frustration is echoed by Jessie Gregerson, another temporary resident at Clara White, who served in the U.S. Army.
"Wait periods," said Gergerson. "I was at the V.A earlier today and there were about 5,000 people there all trying to get the same thing done."
He’s also battled homelessness and unemployment in Jacksonville.
"With the waiting periods, it just becomes a pain.
The Clara White Mission is working on placing Jessie and Horace with jobs later this week. They hope lawmakers will continue to fight for their longterm wellbeing and health.?