Supporting Virginia’s Military Families and Veterans
I have been inspired by the stories of veterans serving our country from the Greatest Generation to our recent veterans who served after September 11th. I have had the honor of interacting with our brave men and women in uniform on four continents, and made it my priority in Congress to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, where I fought for our government to hold up its end of the bargain for those who have served and sacrificed. I introduced and co-sponsored legislation to increase veterans’ access to education, training, jobs, and improved health care and particularly mental health services. I also worked diligently to protect the consumer interests of veterans and military families against escalating scams, to keep military families and veterans in their homes, and to ensure military families are appropriately supported. For those efforts, I was honored to receive an A+ rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
As governor, I will bring the same commitment to ensuring that those who have served our country receive the support and gratitude that they deserve. I deeply value the contributions of our military and veterans and believe that we should do all we can to ensure that military personnel choose Virginia as their home after transitioning to civilian life. That’s why we drafted this platform in consultation and partnership with a broad array of Virginia veterans, military spouses, and other members of the military community. This plan strives to reflect the real needs of Virginia veterans and their families and will build on the accomplishments of the McAuliffe administration, which has admirably led the nation in taking on veteran homelessness and advancing veteran employment. I am honored to provide the following policy proposals in alliance with the veterans I have met — these are their ideas, and it is important to me that these ideas get more attention.
Assisting Military Families, Women Veterans, and their Children
Bolster and Fast-track Childcare Support:
Military and veteran families need the flexibility to have both parents participate in the workforce. Families who have recently left the service face particularly daunting challenges in transitioning to civilian work and finding affordable childcare. This is why I have proposed offering every working family a $500 refundable childcare credit. For military families, we should also recognize that the cost of childcare is not the only problem. Currently, active duty military families often cannot get into childcare facilities in Virginia because they are unable to apply the many months in advance required to get into day care. As governor, I will direct the Virginia Department of Social Services to work with local governments and providers to fast-track childcare applications from military families in applying for childcare when they are located outside of Virginia.
Create a Women Veterans Task Force:
After returning from deployment women veterans face a host of unique challenges largely unmet by underdeveloped Defense Department and Veterans Affairs (VA) programs. To begin to bridge this service gap, as governor, I will create a Women Veterans Task Force within the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. The Women Veterans Task Force will seek to identify and expand necessary services for women vets and connect women vets with existing resources.
Provide Universal Pre-K:
Frequent moves in military families have the potential to disrupt the educational progress of children. Military and veteran families moving to Virginia should have the confidence to pursue their service to our country and their post-military careers with the knowledge that their children get started on the right developmental track. This is why I am pushing so hard to fully fund universal pre-K. I will also make it a priority to attract more pre-K facilities to areas of Virginia with significant concentrations of military families.
Improving Education Opportunities for Veterans, Reservists, National Guardsmen, and their Spouses
Provide Two-Years of Free Community College:
Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices to support their loved one through a military career. Virginia, with about 120,000 active duty Service members, has thousands of military spouses who volunteer to move every few years, live in places they do not choose, endure long periods of separation, and put their spouses’ careers first. That sacrifice impacts their careers and educations — they might not spend long enough in one place to finish a degree, or they may not be close to a training program that suits them. Early in my campaign, I proposed providing Virginians with two years of free community college, vocational training, and funded apprenticeships. Whenever a new military family settles in Virginia, my plan will allow the doors to be open for that spouse to pursue his or her career.
Make College More Affordable:
As part of my Working Families Plan, I have proposed re-establishing the Virginia Educational Loan Authority, to give students a higher education state public financing option to guarantee loans and provide competition with high interest private lenders. This Authority will also give veterans the chance to refinance their existing student loans and reduce monthly debt payments.
Ease the Transition to College:
Many young veterans who attend 4-year institutions of higher learning are the 1st generation in their family to attend college and may not be able to take advantage of high-impact activities outside of the classroom such as internships or study abroad. As governor, I will encourage all Virginia’s colleges and universities to create veterans centers to assist student veterans and Service members with navigating the bureaucracy of veterans benefits, financial aid, and enrollment.
Improving Career Prospects for Veterans, Reservists, and Military Spouses
Make Civilian Licensing Easier for Veterans and Military Spouses:
The military makes significant investments training Service members in specialty skills and it is important that civilian employers benefit from these skills. In Congress, I proudly co-sponsored a number of bills on the interoperability of military training to civilian life, as well as legislation that assisted new veterans with civilian work opportunities. Under Governor McAuliffe, Virginia has made significant progress in expediting military credentials to civilian equivalency for veterans, as well state reciprocity for military spouses. As governor, I will seek efficiencies in the transitioning process and search for ways to make it easier for medics and corpsmen to obtain certification as emergency medical technicians.
Get Veterans Hired:
Upon re-entering civilian life, it is important for veterans to quickly find post-military employment opportunities. The McAuliffe administration has made great strides in advancing veterans employment, particularly through the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program. We must continue and look to expand the V3 program, which has already been tremendously successful in pairing job seeking veterans with high quality employers.
Provide Career Resources For Veterans and Military Spouses:
When military families move to Virginia, public libraries often become a first stop for spouses to access job information, connect to the Internet, and conduct informational interviews. But when military families first move to our Commonwealth, they do not have immediate proof of residency or even a home address. I will help streamline the job search for military spouses by providing access to libraries without proof of residency for a period of time after relocating to Virginia.
Many veterans and military spouses engage in entrepreneurship activities or run independent consultancies in Virginia. These veterans and military spouses often lack access to professional networks and training opportunities that can help them with their business ideas. I will instruct the Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs to create a Veterans Entrepreneurs Office to connect veterans and military spouses with professional resources and training opportunities.
Assisting Our Wounded Veterans
Ensure Access to Mental Health:
Veterans from the first Gulf War and Vietnam suffer from PTS at high rates. In Virginia, we must ensure that these veterans have access to quality mental health services that can address post-traumatic stress (PTS) in the communities in which they reside. In 2014, out of the 20 veterans who committed suicide per day, only 6 had visited a VA facility, which makes the role of state-level assistance crucial to this problem. We must make mental health services more available throughout Virginia, particularly where a VA hospital or a community-based outpatient facility may not be immediately accessible. I firmly believe that one of the most important reasons to expand Medicaid is to unlock more funds that can implement the reforms of the mental health system.
Prioritizing Consumer Protection for Military and Veteran Families
Address Consumer Protection Challenges:
The unique circumstances of military service, with repeated relocations, distance from family and friends, and high stress, make military families an attractive target for scammers. Attorney General Mark Herring has done a commendable job in focusing on consumer protections for Service members and veterans. As governor, I will support the Attorney General’s work on these matters and encourage more prosecutions of scam artists to defend our veterans. I will also direct the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to provide consumer protection information to military families and veterans.
Here’s what Virginia’s veterans and military family members are saying about our plan:
Shannon Vaughn, US Army, retired: “Tom has taken the time to honestly listen to veterans across this Commonwealth. It is evident by the clear vision and concise strategy he has put forward. I look forward to watching veterans and their families receive the well earned benefits they deserve under his governorship.”
William Wallace Smith, US Army, veteran: “Tom’s commitment to military families and veterans is exactly what Virginia needs right now. This plan shows me how much work Tom has put into getting to know service members, spouses, and reservists — because he talks about the common-sense issues that can help people today. Virginia is one of the national leaders in the tech sector, and the Governor can help these growing companies find well-trained veterans with a unique blend of technical skills and experience working on teams. I saw first-hand the hard work that Governor McAuliffe’s administration put into creating high-tech jobs for vets and families, and Tom’s commitment to expand that progress is important to me.”
Laura Abbot, military spouse: “As a career professional and a military spouse, I know that Tom understands the demands placed on military spouses. Tom’s plan makes it easier for military spouses to get an education, find employment, and to become entrepreneurs in their own right in Virginia. I am impressed by the thoughtfulness of his proposals that would help military spouses.”
James Vizzard, US Army, retired: “Tom Perriello understands the contributions veterans, service members, and military families make to our commonwealth. His policies will make Virginia a model for veterans’ education, employment, and continued service.”