Serving my country in the United States Army Reserve was the greatest honor of my life. For 27 years, I was blessed to work alongside some of the finest men and women that I have ever met. The lessons I learned while in command of those soldiers forever shaped my vision of leadership in government, and instilled in me a deeply held respect for Wisconsin’s heroes.
Wisconsin veterans deserve the utmost respect for everything they have done. I am proud of our state’s legacy of taking care of them, getting them the workforce training they need, and connecting them with jobs when they get home.
Sadly, it seems like every few months we can turn on the TV and see another example of the federal government woefully mismanaging care for our veterans. In recent years, the public has seen news stories about long wait times at VA Hospitals leading to patient deaths. Patient mismanagement at some institutions has exacerbated the very medical issues that cause some veterans to seek treatment.
Even if they aren’t being treated with the respect they deserve nationally, Wisconsin has always tried to do our part to make sure that the state’s veterans are taken care of with the respect they deserve.
In 1943, the state created a special income surtax to finance the Post-War Rehabilitation Fund for the medical, educational, and economic needs of World War II veterans. In 1947, the Veterans Housing Trust Fund was created to make loans to veterans for home purchases and improvements. All of these programs still exist today and are operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Veterans Trust Fund.
On top of that, the state has worked to make sure that veterans qualify for up to 128 credits at the University of Wisconsin System schools – a benefit that thousands of Wisconsin heroes have taken advantage of.
I am proud of the work that the Legislature has done recently to expand on this legacy. We have focused our efforts on increasing support for programs benefiting sick and aging veterans. Additionally, we worked to upgrade our state’s veteran’s homes — ensuring the continued care for many elderly residents. We increased nursing staff and their salaries to make sure our veterans are receiving quality care across the state.
We expanded the Veteran Tuition Remission Programs at UW Colleges and tech colleges to get our vets training. The state even upped investments in workforce training to help allow our heroes returning home a shot at the jobs of the future.
Only veterans will know the burden they carried when they made the choice to answer our nation’s call. But, I am willing to bet that if you asked a veteran, every single one of them would say they would do it all over again. It is our job as the community to welcome them home, to help them as much as we can, and to learn from the strengths they have to offer.
I’m proud of how Wisconsin takes care of our veterans.