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Veterans Affairs

2023 Update

   As we prepared for the 2023 Regular Legislative Session I was pleased and privileged to be appointed the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.

   As we began the 2023 Regular session I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a caucus dedicated to Veterans’ issues and legislation. So I started one. By the end of the session we had 19 Veterans’ Caucus members (out of 134) representing both Republicans and Democrats and both the House and the Senate.  Our most noteworthy success was the passage of HB3451 which updated Veterans’ hiring preference ratings for state employment.  Additionally I was able to sponsor adopted House Concurrent Resolution 15 (HCR15) requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance send official correspondence to West Virginia’s federal delegations stating West Virginia Veterans’ concerns and objections to the two TRICARE for Life (“TFL”) proposals found in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) biennial report that would significantly increase costs for seniors using the TFL benefit.

   Later I was appointed to the Select Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for Interim and Special Sessions (5 of the 23 members of the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee).

 

The table below lists the Veterans’ bills which I was either the Lead or a Co-Sponsor:

Bill

Title
Status
Committee
Step
Last Action
Updating the veteran preference ratings in state code for state employment
Signed
Effective Ninety Days from Passage – (June 9, 2023)
Increase budget of WVRNG West Virginian National Guard for military funerals in all branches of the military by VFW chapters
Pending
House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security
Committee
01/25/23
Establish a refundable tax credit for veterans with a 100% service-connected disability
Pending
House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security
Committee
01/24/23
Expediting License Applications for active military members and veterans, and their spouses
Signed
Effective Ninety Days from Passage – (June 9, 2023)
Amending the existing War Orphan program so children and spouses of deceased active-duty officers AND enlisted Service members would both be eligible for the War Orphan Education Program
Pending
House Education
Committee
02/03/23
Provide that first $5000 per year earned on Military Duty, Active, National Guard, or Reserves be exempt from the WV State Income Tax.
Pending
House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security
Committee
01/19/23
Creating a liaison program with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs Transition Assistance Program
Pending
House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security
Committee
01/13/23

   Who remembers the Vietnam War?  Being in the military at that time was not very popular. When I learned I had earned an ROTC scholarship, I distinctly remember at a high school dance my girlfriend asking me why I wanted to join the military and be a “baby killer.”  Wow.  As I explained to her, I had no intention of killing babies, but I saw the Navy as a way to pay for college so I could become a naval architect.

   As a country we have learned a lot, and greatly improved how we treat our veterans since Vietnam. In the 1970s, if you wore a military uniform you might get spit upon, today, people intentionally come up to our men and women in uniform and thank them for their service.  Most of our country has recognized that we need to extend our thanks and gratitude to all who serve others–often while putting their lives at risk–including law enforcement officers, and fire and emergency medical personnel, to name a few.

   Another major difference from the 1970s to today is our military’s reliance upon the Reserves and our National Guard.  In the 1970s, joining the Reserves was pretty much a guaranteed paycheck with little risk of ever being “called up.” If you join a Reserve or Guard unit today, and you stay for any significant length of time, you can almost guarantee that you will be activated for one, or more, extended deployments eventually.

   West Virginia has improved—a lot—when it comes to supporting our veterans.  Compared to only a few years ago when we were ranked #35 by WalletHub for military retirees in 2018, West Virginia moved up to #26 as of 2023 (Source https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-military-retirees/3915 ).  I spent a career on active duty in uniform, but as I have learned first-hand through my reservist son, we treat our military veterans differently if they are (were) a reservist.  West Virginia is on the right path in the way we treat our veterans and their families, but there remains more that we can do. I want to help make that happen from the House of Delegates.  Until such time that there are no homeless veterans and no veteran is denied treatment for medical conditions that happened as a result of their service, we need to do more.

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