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Veterans Gather to Honor Richard Miles and Call for Change

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DES MOINES, Iowa--Iowans are remembering a fallen veteran and in light of his death are calling for change.

Army Veteran Richard Miles was honored Monday evening by fellow veterans and those pushing for change in veteran's mental health care.

On Monday, Miles was laid to rest and the Veteran's Cemetery on what would have been his 41st birthday.

“Not everyone who lost their life in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan actually died there. Also, not everyone who came home from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan ever left there. Richard Miles was one of those individuals,” says Former Executive Director for the Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs Pat Palmersheim.

The Veterans National Recovery Center hosted the event and say 22 veterans are committing suicide every day and if more isn't done there will be more cases like Miles.

“There is no doubt the federal VA needs to do more to assist those veterans who have returned and been diagnosed with PTSD, they need their help and not just more medications,” says Palmersheim.

Miles was found dead in Water Works Park last month.

His family and friends say he suffered from PTSD.

They say he wanted a long-term mental health evaluation at the VA but instead was sent home with a prescription.

“It`s a tragedy that Richard Miles died but he is the exclamation point on the message we`re trying to open these beds up again,” says President of The Veterans National Recovery Center Bob Krause.

Krause says currently there are only 10 psychiatric beds open at the VA.

He's calling on lawmakers to open up the 20 beds that were closed in Marshalltown and is asking Congress to pass a resolution to open more beds up at the VA in Iowa.

“After every war we've needed psychiatric beds but in this war we've decided that we`re going to shut them all down right in the middle of the war. It didn't make any sense but that`s what`s occurred,” says Krause.

Last month Sen. Joni Ernst sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs requesting an examination of the VA's practices in Central Iowa.

Sen. Ernst's office said that review began at the beginning of the month and is expected to be complete in the next week or so.

Monday evening, Sen. Ernst also gave her first speech on the U.S. Senate floor. She introduced legislation to prioritize veterans' mental health care.

"These veterans fought for us and defended us tirelessly, they endured more than most of us can even imagine, the invisible wounds of war can no longer go unnoticed," says Sen. Ernst.

Sen. Ernst's bill includes incentives to hire more mental health care professional at VA hospitals. The legislation would also provide immediate non VA care for veterans until they can receive comprehensive treatment at the VA hospital. It also attempts to limit how far a veteran has to travel for care. Sen. Ernst says long distances sometimes prevent veterans from seeking the care they need.

To watch Sen. Ernst full speech, click here.

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