McDonnell: Make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State”
McDonnell: Make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State”
Army Veteran Rolls out Broad List of Proposals in Speech to American Legion
RICHMOND- Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial nominee and former Attorney General of Virginia, today rolled out a broad package of proposals all designed to make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State.” McDonnell unveiled the proposals in his speech at the 91st Annual Convention of the American Legion, Department of Virginia, in Richmond. McDonnell is a United States Army veteran. He served 21 years active duty and reserve, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. McDonnell’s oldest daughter, Jeanine, served in the United States Army, including a one-year tour of duty in Iraq.
The highlights of McDonnell’s far-reaching proposals to make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State” include:
- Commit Virginia to helping veterans find jobs by consolidating current state efforts; starting a state-run veterans employment website; bringing business leaders to the table; waiving administrative fees for applications and permits for veterans starting small businesses; implementing state hiring incentives for veterans
- Support effort to grant real estate tax relief to disabled veterans
- Provide burial vault funding for heroes laid to rest in Virginia’s state veterans cemeteries
- Designate a member of the Governor’s Cabinet with responsibility to be the Senior Advisor for Active Duty Military Community and Dependent Affairs
- Protect Department of Defense assets in Virginia by assembling team focused on keeping military facilities in the Commonwealth and pursuing opportunities for growth
- Establish “Virginia Compact with Veterans” to guarantee Virginia leads the nation in taking care of veterans
- Evaluate veteran homelessness issue and direct state government to work with federal and private partners to launch a homeless veteran program
- Continue the Virginia Wounded Warrior program to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury
- Speed up and simplify veterans benefit claims processing
- Name the “Honor and Remember” Flag as the official flag by which the Commonwealth remembers Virginians killed in the line of duty
Speaking about making Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State”, McDonnell stated, “Our freedom is purchased daily by the sacrifice of American men and women serving valiantly in locations around the world. They volunteer to stand up for America, and when these heroes return we must stand up for them. A tradition of military service runs deep in the McDonnell family, as it does in so many other Virginia families. Personally, I owe my college education, and law degree, to the opportunities provided to me by the United States Army. I never forget that. As governor, I will look for each and every opportunity by which Virginia’s government can help the over 800,000 veterans who call the Commonwealth home. They have served us; now Virginia’s state government must better serve them.”
McDonnell continued, “We can make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State” by enacting policies that will fundamentally change how Richmond approaches veterans’ issues. I will bring together veterans leaders to formally put to paper a “Virginia Compact with Veterans” that will bind the Commonwealth to this mission. We will commit state government to doing more to help veterans find jobs, and that includes incentivizing the hiring of veterans, particularly the disabled, in state government. We will waive administrative fees for permits and applications for veterans who have returned home from service and now wish to open their own small business in the state. And we will work with our colleges and universities to ensure that admission policies properly take into account military service. We will confront, head on, the tragedy of homeless veterans. And I will appoint a member of my cabinet to serve as the Governor’s Senior Advisor for Active Duty Military Community and Dependent Affairs. A McDonnell Administration will be a partner Virginia’s veterans can count on.”
Leading veterans praised McDonnell’s policy proposals.
Mike Harris, Past National Vice-Commander of the American Legion noted, “Being a veteran myself, I was pleased to find that Bob McDonnell is eager to address issues that are important to our entire military community. Not only is he willing to address these issues, but he is willing to make them a top priority as Governor. His 21 years of service in the U.S. Army and 18 years in public office makes him the best candidate for veterans issues, he has proven experience. Mr. McDonnell understands the importance of duty and honor, as do those of us that have served in our military forces. In my association with Bob I have found him to be a person that lives by integrity and ethics. As Governor, Bob will do everything he can to provide the necessary assistance to our military community.”
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), a combat veteran and retired US Army Colonel who serves as the State Coalition Co-Chair of Veterans for McDonnell, remarked, “Bob McDonnell understands veteran issues and concerns because he is a veteran. Bob’s dad provided him with the right example of military service and Bob did the same for his oldest daughter Jeanine, who is an Iraqi War veteran herself. All of them, dad, son, and now granddaughter are an unbroken chain of service to our nation. Bob will be a governor keenly focused on veterans and will stay engaged to address veteran issues in ways that produce results, not just words. As a combat veteran, I trust Bob McDonnell to stand by vets just as vets stood shoulder to shoulder when they defended this nation. Bob McDonnell is a veteran for veterans and the only veteran running for governor.”
Bob McDonnell: A Veteran Listening to and Looking out for our Military, our Veterans, and their Families
Make Virginia “America’s Most Veteran Friendly State”
“Throughout history, from the North African coast to the swamps of Cuba; from the sands of Normandy to the frozen hills of Korea; through the jungles of Vietnam and now into the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of the Middle East, brave men and women have left safe homes and pleasant lives to defend and advance this nation. They have courageously combated tyranny and oppression to bring freedom to others. Our nation owes these men and women a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
—Attorney General Bob McDonnell, in a statement on Veterans Day, November 10, 2006
America is at war. Virginia has a special responsibility to support our 245,000 active duty military service members, reservists, National Guard members and DOD civilian employees, the over 800,000 military veterans, and the families of our service members and veterans all of whom call Virginia home.
Virginia has hosted our military services on her soil since our nation began. George Washington, a great Virginian was the first commanding general of the US Army. We have always opened our arms to the brave men and women who relocate here on military orders to serve this nation. We welcome their families into our communities and value and support them while their fathers, mothers, husbands and wives serve this great nation. We strive to make the transition to civilian life convenient when so many of them choose to remain in Virginia upon conclusion of their military service. All Virginians keep the home fires burning for our sons and daughters when they leave the Commonwealth to serve the country from afar and we welcome them back with heartfelt gratitude and a deep sense of honor when they return home to Virginia. When any of those great Americans gives the last full measure of devotion, sacrificing themselves for our freedom, Virginia has the most solemn responsibility a grateful nation possesses as home to their final resting place whether in Arlington National Cemetery or the many other National and State veteran’s cemeteries in the Commonwealth.
Bob McDonnell appreciates the special significance and the added responsibility that Virginia has to this extraordinary community of patriotic citizens. That is why he is a leader on initiatives to improve our support for the active military community, veterans, and their families that call Virginia their home.
Bob knows the sacrifices of military service first hand. He was a one year old in 1955 when his father, USAF Lieutenant Colonel John McDonnell, moved the family to Fairfax County. Bob’s dad retired from the Air Force in 1964 and went on to a second public service career with the Naval Investigative Service.
After completing high school Bob was off to South Bend, Indiana to live his dream of attending the University of Notre Dame. He went on a full Army ROTC scholarship. For Bob McDonnell a higher education came with a commitment to serve our country. Like his father before him, Bob would wear the uniform as a military officer.
Bob entered active duty in the U.S. Army in October 1976, completing basic training in Texas, and was assigned to Grafenwohr, Germany during the Cold War. In Germany, Bob was a platoon leader with the 2nd Armored Division (Fwd), and also ran a medical clinic for the post. In December 1979, Bob left Germany, heading to Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia, but he left Germany having gained a helpful tool for his future endeavors, a Masters of Science in Business Administration degree earned by taking 3 years of night classes from Boston University.
At Fort Eustis in Newport News, Captain Bob McDonnell worked at McDonald Army Hospital as the Medical Supply Officer. In April 1981 he left active duty, but he didn’t leave the service. All told Bob would serve 21 years in the U.S. Army, both active duty and reserves, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997.
Bob and Maureen also know the sacrifice of sending a child overseas in the service of our nation. Their oldest daughter, Jeanine, answered the same call to service as her Dad and both of her grandfathers. She also served as an officer in the U.S. Army, including a year tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005-2006.
In 1789, George Washington said “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
These sentiments apply just as strongly today as they did at the founding of our nation. For Bob McDonnell there is no greater obligation of a nation than support for the military, veterans, their families, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Bob McDonnell is committed to supporting Virginia’s heroes and giving them the care and support they richly deserve. Bob McDonnell is the only veteran running for Governor in this race. Bob McDonnell is a vet who will listen to vets. Bob McDonnell is a Veteran for Veterans.
Veterans are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Bob McDonnell understands that results are the only things that matter and he will work in a bipartisan manner to get results for Virginia’s veterans. He recognizes the good work of the 23 veterans’ services organizations on the Joint Leadership Council (JLC) that include the American Legion, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) and many others. He will continue to actively work with them to expand upon their success and met with them personally as Governor. These groups are vital to advancing veterans’ issues and they have been successful in a number of efforts that Bob supported, including qualification for instate tuition, increasing veterans’ claims officers, the Wounded Warrior program, the Phyllis and Paul Galanti Education Center of the Virginia War Memorial, and the recently signed Interstate Compact.
Bob McDonnell is honored to outline his military and veterans platform at the American Legion Convention. Bob is a member of Post 110 in Virginia Beach. As Governor, Bob will make the following proposals a reality for our active duty military service members, veterans and their families in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
Appoint a Senior Advisor to the Governor for the Military Community and Dependent Affairs
Virginia must aggressively partner with the U.S. Department of Defense and the active duty military leadership in our state to respond to the challenges and unique needs of our service members, active duty, reservists, National Guard and their families in Virginia.
To further support our active duty military and to strengthen relations with the military community, Bob McDonnell will designate a member of his Cabinet with the responsibility to be the Senior Advisor for Active Duty Military Community and Dependent Affairs. This individual will report directly to the Governor on all matters pertaining to the military community. The advisor will be the liaison on the Governor’s behalf with military leadership to identify what actions Virginia can take to:
- Support the military community in its mission to adequately prepare for and fight our nation’s wars
- Assist in the support of active duty military families residing in Virginia
- Ensure that active duty service members returning to Virginia with the wounds and scars of battle, and their families, are provided for appropriately and with the gratitude of the people of the Commonwealth
- Identify where Virginia can improve her policies and laws to better support our service members, and how we might eliminate obstacles to the military’s success in training them for fighting and winning our nation’s wars
- Ensure a seamless tran sition into civilian life
Protect Department of Defense Assets in Virginia
Virginia does not take for granted the significant role the military and Department of Defense play in the economic vitality of Virginia. Virginia is ranked first among the 50 states and lags only behind Washington DC in per capita defense spending. The estimated $56 billion that the defense department is projected to spend in Virginia this year translates to business for Virginia and jobs for our citizens. We must be vigilant about protecting the assets, both military installations and defense contracting businesses, the defense department has located in our Commonwealth and seek new opportunities for growth. The McDonnell administration will be proactive in identifying the appropriate strategies to retain the military and federal facilities located in Virginia and to identify operations and facilities that can locate and grow in Virginia.
- By Executive order, Bob McDonnell will assemble the most knowledgeable and capable advocates with the proven experience and relationships necessary to assist Virginia in this endeavor.
- We will make all of the resources of the Commonwealth available to reinvigorate this effort and will place high priority on these initiatives.
One out of every ten Virginians is a military veteran. It is a testimony to the valor of Virginians to consider the spirit of service and sacrifice that our fellow Virginians have demonstrated. They have honored us with their service and we must always care for and support them with our respect and loyalty.
First we must do all we can to make the transition from military service to civilian life easier:
Establish a Virginia Compact with Veterans
There are currently five boards and committees dedicated to veterans’ issues in the Department of Veterans Services - Board of Veterans Services; Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations; Veterans Services Foundation; Veterans Care Center Advisory Committee; and Veterans Workforce Development Task Force. On the first day of his administration, Bob McDonnell will designate representatives from these five boards and committees, including the JLC, and both Houses of the General Assembly to come together as an advisory group to recommend a Virginia Compact with Veterans to guarantee that Virginia leads the nation in its respect for service men and women, veterans, and their families. This compact will serve as a long term vision and commitment to make Virginia the friendliest state for veterans and their families.
This advisory group, with direct access to the Governor, will evaluate current services offered, best practices in other states, and gaps in the veteran’s support system. This group will also hold veteran town hall meetings around the Commonwealth to listen to veterans in their community and take into consideration their input and ideas. The group will present recommendations for a Virginia Compact with Veterans directly to the Governor.
Automated Claims Processing System
The automated claims processing system simplifies the process of applications and paperwork for filing claims. The Commonwealth has funded efforts to help field a software support program on a pilot basis to assist service members in applying for their disability rating and veteran’s administration benefits when discharging from military service. This is perhaps one of the most complicated and frustrating paperwork endeavor’s our vets have to endure. We want to make it faster, easier, and less bureaucratic.
Bob McDonnell will work with members of the General Assembly to make this pilot software program permanent and fully implement the program statewide. Federal funds should be available to begin implementing a paperless claim processing system, and Bob McDonnell will aggressively seek support from the federal government for this program.
Statewide Coordinated Effort to Help Military Vets Find Jobs
In November, 2007, the Secretary of Public Safety and DVS established the Virginia Veterans Workforce Development Task Force to design a comprehensive workforce development initiative for veterans in Virginia, with special emphasis on those with disabilities and those returning from the Global War on Terror. Their top recommendation was to “develop a collaborative environment of existing programs such as those that exist within the VEC, WIA One-Stop, TAP, and VCCS in order to enhance a seamless delivery system on behalf of our wounded warriors, veterans and their families.”
As Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell will put additional resources toward helping our returning veterans obtain employment here in Virginia. Frequently, corporations are looking for specific skill sets in employees such as technical or engineering training, and our discharging military members have those skills from their time in service. Right now our efforts to marry these corporations with military members are fragmented into multiple agencies, state and federal programs, and consists of links to various employment websites. There should be a comprehensive statewide effort which focuses solely on this mission.
- Bob McDonnell will consolidate these efforts into one focused and effective effort and host an employment web site to match employers to our discharging service members. He will also assemble the top CEOs and Captains of Industry in Virginia to work with him to create the necessary policies and fusion activities to accelerate efforts to match veterans with jobs that need to be filled. The goal of this initiative will be simple - to help these veteran’s obtain good jobs in Virginia and to help our Virginia employers find qualified, former military members. North Carolina has a successful site (http://www.ncmbc.us/) that is managed by the state economic development agency and can be used as a model to build on Virginia’s program.
- Additionally, Bob McDonnell will implement state hiring incentives for veterans, particularly disabled veterans applying for jobs, similar to those currently provided for federal employment. We will create a system to recognize that military service gives experience and value which we need in state government.
- Many of our returning or discharging veterans are eager to return to education and complete or expand on their college degrees. Bob will work with our colleges and universities to create college admission policies that will recognize our guard, reserve and honorably discharged veteran’s service to the nation.
- Further, many of our discharging and retiring veteran’s are eager to start their own small businesses here in Virginia. They love this state and want to be a force for economic growth and job creation. Bob McDonnell will propose legislation to waive administrative fees for permits and applications for small business start ups by qualifying veterans. Small businesses are 97.5% of all existing businesses in Virginia at 225,000 strong. They account for approximately 75% of new job growth in the Commonwealth. It is clear that our free enterprise system and small businesses are the backbone of making Virginia the best place to live, work and visit. This incentive will be an inducement to veterans to use their creative and hard working talents right here in Virginia in starting their new business.
Homeless Veteran’s Initiative
Bob McDonnell has done and will continue to do all he can to support military veterans here in Virginia, but even with these efforts we know that some veterans have not prospered. There are gaps in the federal and state programs currently offered and we must identify those gaps so that we do not lose more veterans who are seeking a better life having served this nation faithfully.
Bob McDonnell will assess and act on the veteran homelessness review being conducted by JLARC at the request of Delegate Kirk Cox. The Commonwealth will examine the current level of services provided to homeless vets in Virginia, identify gaps in service, and evaluate the need for and costs of additional services. Building upon the success in other areas, such as San Diego, Virginia will engage in a proactive Homeless Vet program and explore how Virginia can pursue federal grant money and work with the private sector to see that these veterans are provided for.
Continuation of the Wall of Honor
As Attorney General, Bob McDonnell established the Virginia Wall of Honor. This wall honors Virginians who have died in the Global War on Terrorism. Speaking about the dedication of this memorial, Attorney General McDonnell noted, “A nation should be judged not only by how and why it sends its young people off to battle, but also by how it welcomes them home, and how it remembers those who sadly did not return…We mourn their loss, but at the same time we celebrate their heroism and their duty to Commonwealth and country.” All branches of the Armed Services are represented, including the United States Coast Guard, with heroes from the active forces, reserves, and National Guard. Accompanying the wall is a framed Virginia State flag, flown in Iraq by Corporal Jonathan Bowling of Martinsville. Corporal Bowling served with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division. He was killed in an enemy ambush in Al-anbar Province, Iraq on January 26, 2005, and the flag was donated to the Wall of Honor by his father, Virginia State Police Master Trooper Darrell Bowling of Martinsville. In addition, a pair of boots, and a rifle with helmet on top, stands in front of a Virginia and American flag, in a traditional military tribute to the fallen.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will continue the tradition of the Wall of Honor by making the Thursday preceding Memorial Day an official statewide Day of Remembrance. The Wall of Honor ceremony will take place on this day and the wall will continue to be updated to honor those Virginians who have died in the Global War on Terrorism.
Bob will also work closely with the Virginia War Memorial Board of Trustees to ensure that all the names of Virginia’s fallen will be enshrined at the Virginia War Memorial and continue to support their work in honoring our service members.
Burial Vault Funding for Virginia State Veteran’s Cemeteries
Bob believes those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our Commonwealth and the nation, should be honored appropriately with a fully funded burial vault. A burial vault is an in-ground protective concrete shell into which a casket is placed. At national cemeteries, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides these burial vaults at no cost. Currently, Virginia’s state veterans’ cemeteries require that these burial vaults be purchased from a funeral home at a cost of $800 to $1,200. They deserve better and Bob McDonnell will see to it.
Bob McDonnell will pursue federal funds and other solutions to ensure that Virginia veterans and eligible family members are provided for in the same manner as in national cemeteries.
Real estate tax relief for disabled vets
This past General Assembly session, legislation Chief Co-Patroned by Republican Delegates John O’Bannon (R-Henrico) and Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William and Fauquier) passed that would amend the Virginia Constitution to require local governments to grant real estate exemptions for 100% disabled veterans. Because it is a constitutional amendment, the measure will need to pass the General Assembly again in 2010 before being placed on the ballot for Virginia voters.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will proactively support this legislation in the 2010 session and during the general election.
Support the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program
The establishment of this program to aid with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) was a true bipartisan effort. The legislation authorized about a $4.5 million program for two years.
Bob McDonnell is concerned about our veterans returning from war with PTSD and TBI and will support the continuation of this program.
Honor and Remember Flag
On December 29, 2005, George Anthony Lutz II (Tony) of Chesapeake, Virginia was killed by a sniper’s bullet while he was on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. In the months that followed Tony’s funeral, his father, George, visited other families who had lost loved ones in the Iraq war. Many families wanted to know two things: their sacrifice was not in vain and the nation would never forget. These concerns led George on a quest to discover if there was a universally recognized symbol that specifically acknowledges the American service men and women who never made it home. To his surprise, he found nothing. Thus the Honor and Remember Flag was conceived.
Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to designate the Honor and Remember Flag as an official symbol to recognize and honor members of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty. Congressman Randy Forbes introduced the legislation in February of 2009.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will propose similar legislation to the Virginia General Assembly to establish the Honor and Remember Flag as the official flag to remember Virginians killed in the line of duty.
McDonnell’s Record on Veterans’ Issues
Having served for 21 years himself, following in the footsteps of his father and father-in-law, and then watching his daughter serve a tour of duty in Iraq, Bob McDonnell knows veterans’ issues. As a Delegate and then as Attorney General he has established a record of supporting veterans and he will continue to do so as Governor.
As a Delegate, Bob sponsored legislation to ensure that children of active duty military personnel, claiming Virginia as their residence, were eligible for the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) to further their education and raise their academic performance. Bob also co-sponsored legislation to protect the privacy of military records including discharge certificates and reports of separation from active duty, request federal funds to expand capacity of the Veterans’ Care Center, and allow military retirees to receive service-connected disability benefits at the federal level without offsetting retirement payments. He also co-sponsored legislation to provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction up to $15,000 from state taxable income of military basic pay for extended active duty with an incremental reduction for amounts up to $30,000, and supported legislation to preserve and protect the integrity of military medals, memorials and monuments.
As Attorney General, Bob McDonnell made veterans’ issues a cornerstone of his 2007 legislative agenda. He supported legislation to ensure that all qualified survivors and dependents of Virginia military personnel attend public institutions of higher education free of tuition and fees when admitted. The legislation also established the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Fund to provide financial assistance for board and room charges, books and supplies, and other expenses.
Bob McDonnell also stood up for service members before the November 2008 election, when he issued a formal opinion regarding overseas absentee ballots. McDonnell issued that general registrars may not reject a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) submitted by overseas military voters for the federal election, that do not include a printed name and address for the person who signs the witness statement.
Further, Bob McDonnell established the Virginia Wall of Honor at the Office of the Attorney General. This wall is in honor of Virginians who have died in the Global War on Terrorism.