Issue Position: Keeping our Commitments to Veterans
Mike Gregoire, Washington's very first, first gentleman, served in combat as a Second Lieutenant in Vietnam. Governor Chris Gregoire and First Mike are determined advocates for Washington servicemen and women, who not only protect our state and nation, but provide essential disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Washington is one of the few states where the number of veterans is increasing, as men and women completing their service are permanently settling into a community. Governor Gregoire believes that the best way to honor service and sacrifice is to make the support of our military personnel, reservists and veterans a top priority.
Supporting Our Active Military
Governor Gregoire and First Mike in 2005 led a bipartisan team that successfully persuaded the federal Base Realignment Commission to keep the doors of Washington's key military installations open. It was a major victory for our communities, for our economy, and for the men and women who serve this country and who know Washington as home.
Governor Gregoire worked successfully with the 2006 Legislature to pass election reforms ensuring Washington voters serving overseas will get their ballots in time to cast their vote. Beginning in 2007, our state's primary elections and the deadline for mailing ballots to service and overseas voters will both be earlier in the year.
Honoring Our Veterans
Thanks to Governor Gregoire's commitment to these issues, First Mike's tireless lobbying, partnerships with veteran's organizations, and the support of the Legislature, Chris Gregoire's administration has been one of the most productive in history for servicemen and women.
Changes made will help more Washington veterans access the benefits they have earned. The Governor in 2005 expanded the definition of "veteran" to include service members on active duty during Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now more veterans can receive certain pension and state benefits, including access to state veterans' homes.
Governor Gregoire understands the unique challenges that service men and women face when they return to civilian life. She created the Veterans Innovation Program that provides veterans who served in recent military action with crisis and emergency relief, as well as education, training, and employment assistance.
Governor Gregoire also understands the difficulties that veterans and their families face when veterans becomes disabled as a result of their military service. That is why she supported the creation of a property tax grant program for widows and widowers of 100-percent service-connected disabled veterans. She also supported legislation extending property tax exemptions to 100-percent service-connected disabled veterans and will work with the legislature to strengthen this law.
Veterans returning from extended deployments may return with physical or emotional scars that complicate their transition to civilian life. Governor Gregoire reaches out to each veteran when they complete their service, offering her personal thanks and help connecting with benefits like employment, health care, or disability claims. Assistance is provided through an innovative partnership of state and federal agencies, local governments and the business community. This partnership has been heralded as a national model and many other states are now creating similar programs. In addition, she funded a new Veterans Resource Center to assist homeless veterans with job-finding skills and resources.
Moving Washington Forward
Washington veterans and active military personnel can count on Governor and Mike Gregoire for steadfast support and continued advocacy.
Her committee on Disability Issues and Employment is launching the "Hire a Hero" project, which will bring together representatives of private business and the military to facilitate successful transitions to civilian employment for our service men and women leaving active duty. A particular emphasis will be to create better employment opportunities for disabled veterans.
Governor Gregoire believes that men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country deserve a fitting remembrance. She is personally committed to finding the right location for a veterans cemetery in Eastern Washington and has committed state funding to the cause.