This picture is from my first six month deployment on board the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2000. I had just turned twenty.
I didn’t know then that less than a month later, terrorists from Al Qaeda would attack a destroyer in our Battle Group - the USS Cole - and kill or injure 54 of my shipmates. I also didn’t know that less than a year after that, Al Qaeda would kill over 3,000 people on 9/11. I also didn’t realize that after getting out of the Navy, I would learn about just how jacked up our veterans’ benefits system was, and how difficult it would become for people to get basic health care from an overwhelmed and overburdened VA system.
I know those things now, and it’s why I have a comprehensive plan for our state to correct the wrongs that the misguided and never-ending War on Terror have inflicted on my brothers and sisters for almost twenty years. Instead of simply thanking us for our service, I intend to push for legitimate resources to be put forward to take care of those who served in our all-volunteer military:
- First things first, I will push to be added to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (CVA), where actual veteran representation is minimal. For the 2019-2021 legislative session, only four out of the seventeen members of the CVA - three veterans, and one Blue Star mother - have any affiliation with the armed services. The only people who can adequately understand and advocate for veterans are veterans.
- I will push for additional support for vouchers that will allow veterans to get free or heavily subsidized health care within civilian facilities. The Veterans Choice Program (VCP) was intended to give people outside of a 40 mile driving radius from a VA facility access to subsidized health care, but it still requires the VA to set up the appointment, find a willing doctor, and administrate the paperwork. Further, our district is at least a half an hour away from the closest VA centers (West Haven and Newington), but is still in that 40 mi. radius. This is especially concerning for emergency care. My plan would supplant the VCP for the state of Connecticut.
- I will submit a bill that requires employers to pay a nominal fee into programs, including CTHires and Troops to Teachers, that target veteran hiring. This will allow for greater services for Conencticut veterans to gain meaningful employment or buttress their GI Bill for further education. It also gives employers a little more "skin in the game" to hire servicemembers.
- My energy plan calls for a transition to nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. This plan would allow servicemembers who are qualified to work on the Navy's nuclear submarine reactors in Groton to transition to civilian work locally.
- Finally, I would submit a bill to require a state-wide database of all Connecticut veterans' DD 214 bills. An open joke in the veteran community is how hard it is to find one's form if they lose the one (1) original they get. I had to hire a private investigator for mine, which is a joke.
I am fortunate to have been able to serve my country and come out of it with all of my facilities intact. I have a duty to pay that forward to all veterans of all generations, and my plan goes beyond lip service and veterans' discounts at chain restaurants.