LANSING – State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) gave her support today to a series of proposals that would help veterans access programs and services that help them. The proposals were drafted by the Michigan House Democrats’ Veterans’ Services Task Force, led by co-chairmen Reps. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) and Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), whose recommendations include putting more veterans into jobs and education, improving access to health care and housing, and giving active service members more freedom in voting.
“The men and women who served us in the military put their lives on the line for us, and we made a promise to them that we would honor their service and sacrifice,” Brinks said. “But when our veterans come home, they face steep obstacles in obtaining education, health care and programs that will help them re-enter civilian life. We simply must do more to support our veterans.”
Despite having the 11th-largest veteran population in the nation, Michigan ranks 53rd in per-capita spending on veterans’ benefits, behind Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. The task force proposals fall under three headings: transition, education and employment; housing and health care; and policies for those still in the service.
Proposals in the task force’s report include:
Transition, Education and Employment
- Guarantee in-state and in-district tuition to veterans attending public universities and community colleges (House Joint Resolutions L and M, Rep. Knezek)
- Give a tax credit to businesses who hire unemployed veterans (House Bill 4068, Rep. Smiley)
Health Care and Housing
- Initiate a study regarding the establishment of a veterans’ home in Southeast Michigan
- Extend the use of service dogs in public to people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder
- Provide funding for public education regarding PTSD services for veterans through the Michigan Veterans Engagement Fund
- Ensure that all absentee ballots from service members overseas are counted, so long as they are postmarked by Election Day
- Enact the Family Military Leave Act to allow a service member’s spouse to take time off without repercussions while that service member is on leave from deployment (HB 4777, Rep. Abed)
- Encourage school districts to adopt a policy granting excused absences for students with parents on leave from active duty
“Standing behind our veterans isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue,” Brinks said. “These should be ideas that we can all support. I look forward to working across the aisle to turn these proposals into laws so that we can help the brave men and women who served all of us.”
The complete report can be viewed at http://housedemtaskforces.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Task-Force-Report_VeteransFinal.pdf