Stamas (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)
On Memorial Day, we took the time to honor those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives fighting for our country.
Soon, we will celebrate Independence Day and all the freedoms that are afforded to us in this great nation. Again, we will thank our Michigan service members and veterans who served in the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves — and who have protected our country and our rights for more than 200 years.
But we must do more than just say “thank you” to our veterans; we must make sure they are treated with respect and fairness. As an Army veteran myself, it has been one of my priorities to ensure that our veterans are connected with the benefits and support they have earned so they can easily transition into civilian life once their time in uniform is over.
It is a shame that, at the federal level, our veterans are being put on health care waiting lists, only to be denied services at VA hospitals and medical facilities for up to six months.
The Obama administration has not upheld its promises to our veterans , and that lack of integrity is unacceptable.
Our work at the state level is more important than ever as we overcome the shortfalls at the national level.
In Michigan, we are taking an active role in finding ways to help our servicemen and women as they return home.
Michigan is home to more than 680,000 veterans — the 11th largest veteran population in the country — and House Republicans are working diligently to help each and every one of them.
In the past three years, Republicans have invested additional money into our veterans homes and armories; provided for free Recreation Passports for disabled veterans, former POWs, and Medal of Honor recipients; and helped create the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. In turn, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has created a website, www.MichiganVeterans.com, that acts as a one-stop shop for veterans to easily gain access to information on health benefits, housing help, education and job opportunities and much more.
To that same end, we have also enacted legislation allowing military training and experience to be used toward licensure requirements in many trades and professions, including emergency medical service technicians, mechanical contractors, firefighters, plumbers and electricians.
We should not make our veterans jump through additional and unnecessary hoops when trying to enter the workforce, and these changes eliminate some of those burdensome requirements.
In recent months, we created the veterans designation on Michigan driver’s licenses, eliminating hassles for veterans when showing proof of military service; and we are working to provide more and better access to benefits for all Michigan veterans with a seven-bill package that would inform veterans about their benefits and facilitate the sharing of veterans’ information between state agencies.
In May, the House also approved a resolution — House Joint Resolution N, which I authored — that would give all veterans access to in-state tuition rates at Michigan’s 15 public universities.
If passed by the Senate, they would be just one more way Michigan can retain our current veterans and attract new ones to our state — and affirm our support of those who have served our country.
From jobs to education to benefits and services, we have made our veterans a priority here in Michigan. We want them to return to Michigan, because we are committed to doing more than just saying “thank you” — we are working to give our veterans the brighter future they have earned.
State Rep. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, represents Michigan’s 98th District, and is majority floor leader of the House.