116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson is touting her support of veterans in her first TV ad of the election cycle.
The Marion Republican will launch her first TV ad of the cycle on Tuesday, part of a more than $2 million planned ad buy between now and Election Day on Nov. 8.
The ad features Sgt. Trent Dirks, a local veteran Hinson’s campaign said she has partnered with in her efforts to expand mental health services for veterans.
Dirks, in the ad, says it was “tough” returning home from service in Afghanistan.
“Two of my buddies took their own lives, and I was in a really dark place,” Dirks says in the ad. “But, I got help, and that’s the main reason I wasn’t next.”
Dirks goes on to thank Hinson for her work pushing legislation to expand access to mental health care services for veterans in rural areas.
President Joe Biden in June signed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act into law. The legislation was named for Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, a Davenport veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and died by suicide in 2016 after being denied inpatient psychiatric care at the Iowa City Veterans Administration Medical Center.
The bill was sponsored by Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne of West Des Moines and co-sponsored by Hinson and fellow Iowa Republican U.S. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa and Randy Feenstra of Hull.
The new law will establish three new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) program centers, which provide a small team of specialists to meet the needs of rural veterans with serious mental health and daily living issues. It also requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study and report on whether the VA has sufficient resources to serve rural veterans who need mental health care that is more intensive than traditional outpatient therapy.
“Veterans should never have to go without the help and support they need, no matter where they live in Iowa,” Hinson said in a statement announcing the launch of the new ad.
Democratic challenger and state Sen. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha has criticized Hinson over her support of veterans, noting the first-term Republican incumbent voted against a House bill that would have expanded health care benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and other hazardous substances during their military service.
“And then she … has photo ops with veterans, and she is just unabashed and unashamed, right?” Mathis said of Hinson Saturday afternoon at a fundraiser in Lisbon co-hosted with fellow Democrat Christina Bohannan of Iowa City.
“She’s unashamed. That’s not the Iowa way,” Mathis said.
Hinson also voted against a House-passed bill that would automatically enroll eligible veterans in the VA Health Care System as they transition out the military.
Currently, veterans must proactively apply for health care benefits at the VA. The House-passed bill would require the department to instead automatically enroll veterans who meet existing eligibility criteria for VA health care. The VA would also have to provide a way for veterans to opt out of coverage, which would apply retroactively to veterans discharged 90 days before it becomes law.
The bill's backers say easing the transition into the VA would go a long way toward preventing veterans' suicides.
Hinson and some House Republicans argued the costs and impact of the changes have not yet been fully addressed, and that implementing it and adding thousands of new names to the VA medical system could strain operations.
“It’s not very common sense to me to pass a bill that’s going to put undue burdens on a facility that can’t implement that in the first place,” Hinson told reporters last month following a tour of the Iowa City VA Medical Center with Miller-Meeks and U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Mathis began airing TV ads last month in the Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Dubuque media markets. The budget for the first week of the media buy is $75,000, according to the Mathis campaign.
The TV ad focuses on Mathis’ nearly 30-year journalism career, showing old clips of her delivering news reports and anchoring the news.
Mathis, in the ad, calls out Washington politicians from both parties, stating Republicans need to stop the culture wars and Democrats need to lower costs for families.
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