Dee from the Desk: Where are the veteran plans? - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Dee from the Desk: Where are the veteran plans?

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As Memorial Day approaches most people are preparing for backyard barbeques and beer. However, others are remembering the true meaning of the holiday and are honoring those who have given their lives for this nation on the battlefield.

The unfortunate truth is for most people Memorial Day is just a day off from work, not a day to honor our service men and woman; a group that is too often forgotten. I see it everyday, in full disclosure here, my father is the President and Founder of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, a 501-c3 that houses and assists at risk veterans. The men and woman that my father and his amazing staff help are those that have returned from service and have quickly fallen through the cracks and need help getting back on their feet.

And that is the problem and point of this post. Too often are our men and women in uniform forgotten by society, by the politicians who ‘promise’ to commit themselves to veterans issues when they are running for office but then as quickly as the promise was made it is forgotten. We have five qualified candidates running for governor of Rhode Island and so far not a single one of them haspubliclyy expressed an interest in helping Rhode Island’s Veterans.

The Rhode Island National Guard is the second most redeployed (per capita) National Guard in the country.  Rhode Island has over 70,000 veterans living here but so far our local elected leaders have done little to help the community. The Congressional Delegation has brought federal grant money to assist local veterans while at the state level not much has been done.

What could the state do? A lot. But for starters, the state could stop taxing military pensions. Rhode Island is one of only six other states that offer no income tax exemption for military retirement benefits. Some states do not tax military pensions at all, others exempt significant portions of military retirement pay; Rhode Island taxes everything.

Secondly, considering the number of veterans in this state, why is the Department of Veteran’s Affairs not a cabinet level position? Here, we shove our Veterans Affairs under the Department of Health and Human Services. There is no direct access to the Governor for local veterans; they don’t even get their own department. While this may be expanding government, it would be expanding government in a positive way to assist those who were willing to give their lives for this nation, this state, and this government. These two suggestions alone would do a lot to improve life for Rhode Island veterans.

The candidates have spent all this time rolling out their jobs plan, their infrastructure plans, their education plans, and every other type of plan but so far no one has rolled out or even mentioned any type of veterans plan. All five candidates will probably make stops to the Bristol Veterans home to campaign and tout the efforts of the state to expand the home after a referendum was approved by voters in 2012. However, there are a heck of a lot more veterans in the state of Rhode Island than just those living in the Bristol Veteran’s Home.

While the retired World War II and Vietnam veterans are important, the new face of the Rhode Island veteran is a twenty something year old who has served several tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of these “new veterans” are returning home and struggling to adjust back into mainstream society.

The military offers individuals amazing training and skills but unfortunately after returning many of them struggle to find employment. So far no candidate has mentioned any unique role for returning veterans in their jobs plan. Instead they have focused on workforce training and education.

All five candidates will probably start talking about the military soon as it becomes more politically convenient. Most will attend events for service men and woman or give a hero a medal for his service but there is a lot more than that to be done in Rhode Island. These people are not fools; they are not going to vote for a candidate just because the candidate gave someone a medal or visited a retirement home. They need to offer real solutions to the problems the veteran community face. Veterans should be a priority for politicians not just a convenient political pawn.

Follow me on Twitter: @DeeDeQuattro

 Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.
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