FRUITLAND, Iowa–As a member of the state house veterans affairs committee, Senator Mark Lofgren works on numerous bills relating to veterans each year and also learns about many programs available to veterans. To help inform more people about the services available to veterans, including what the Iowa Veterans Home offers, Lofgren invited Commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home and Interim Executive Director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Matthew Peterson to speak at several locations July 8, starting at the Fruitland Community Center. Lofgren also introduced Muscatine County’s new Veterans Affair Director Eric Sanders.
Sanders explained that the Iowa Veterans Home, located in Marshalltown, serves any veterans, their spouses, or members of a fallen veteran’s family who would benefit from assisted living. The Iowa Veterans Home has no minimum age, so any veteran who needs assistance may receive it. Veterans may also stay at the Iowa Veterans Home regardless of their ability to pay.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk it put residents of long-term care facilities in, the Iowa Veterans Home transitioned to having each resident have their own bedroom and bathroom. Because these living arrangements offer residents more dignity, Peterson has elected to have residents continue having their own spaces, even though it somewhat reduces the number of people who can stay there.
Currently, the Iowa Veterans home has filled about 87% of its rooms and has an appropriate amount of staff to properly care for this number of residents. Peterson hopes to eventually get the home up to full capacity and to increase the number of staff members as well, despite the fact that facilities across the nation face a shortage of nurses. Currently, the home offers up to a $2,500 signing bonus for new staff members who remain with them for a specified period of time, up to $8,000 raises for those who elect to work weekends, and $500 referral bonuses. As an additional incentive, Peterson has plans to renovate several on site cottages build in 1890, when the home opened, to provide some on site living space for employees relocating to work at the home.
In his dual role running the Iowa Veterans Home and the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, Peterson plans to work on improving communication with veterans across the state to better connect them with the many organizations that can provide services to them. To that end, he has started a new outreach office and welcomes opportunities to speak to groups across the state about what Veterans Affairs and the Iowa Veterans Home do so that all veterans can get the services they need to thrive. “A major focus of mine is to include the community in everything we do,” he emphasized.