Today Governor Walker declared 2012 the Year of the Veteran and signed Senate Bill (SB) 413 into law, otherwise known as the HEART Act. This legislation brings equity to families of veterans who were participants in the Wisconsin Retirement System and died or became disabled on or after January 1, 2007. The Year of the Veteran will honor the deeds of Wisconsin's veterans and provide them with the tools they need to reintegrate into civilian society such as education, health care and employment assistance.
"By dedicating 2012 as the Year of the Veteran I am hopeful we can refocus an effort to connect veterans to the programs, benefits and services available to them," said Governor Walker. "Along with this announcement, I am proud to sign legislation into law that provides fairness and equity to the WRS for veteran participants. I would like to thank State Senator Van Wanggaard and Representative Warren Petryk for their leadership on this important proposal."
In 2012, the nation is marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and welcomes home service members who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, as these U.S. combat operations are drawing to a close. The Year of the Veteran will celebrate the past, emulate the example set by Wisconsin's forefathers, and honor all the state's veterans by reaffirming the State of Wisconsin's commitment to providing the highest level of support to the nation's heroes.
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos will oversee the year-long Year of the Veteran initiative. A full listing of events and resources can be viewed at www.YearoftheVeteran.com.
"We are committed to helping our military veterans find work in this challenging economy and successfully transition to the civilian workforce," said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. "Veterans bring leadership skills, commitment and integrity into the work environment and a return on investment for employers looking for dedicated employees."
There are more than 400,000 veterans living in Wisconsin and nearly 300,000 are wartime veterans. More than 56,000 of these veterans are disabled.
The veteran's unemployment rate in Wisconsin is estimated to be higher than the general population and for veterans recently returning from wars overseas even higher. To that end, a particular emphasis of Year of the Veteran will be put on employing Wisconsin's veterans. Efforts to connect veterans with jobs include:
· 15 Year of the Veteran specific Career and Benefit fairs throughout the state.
· Four Symposiums to educate employers and connect them with the veterans community.
· A virtual career fair for Wisconsin service members, guard/reservist, veterans, and military spouses hosted by Milicruit.
"Year of the Veteran is our way of reaffirming the State of Wisconsin's commitment to providing the highest level of support, benefits and services to our nation's heroes, from the Civil War, of which we are marking the 150th anniversary, to those currently serving and returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan," Secretary Scocos added.
In conjunction with the Year of the Veteran announcement Governor Walker:
Has directed state agencies to hold at least 15 veteran specific job fairs and four employer education symposiums;
· Asked the Department of Tourism to create a travel list and itinerary of Veteran's related sites such as museums and memorials;
· Will hold numerous events this year honoring veterans their families;
· Will encourage the tourism industry to develop their own promotions or share information about promotions they may already have in place;
· Will have agencies use social media vehicles to promote itineraries, museums, web content, events and military discounts or deals; and
· Launched www.yearoftheveteran.com to create a centralized resource of support for veterans their families.
Governor Walker is also supporting a number of bills that would benefit veterans this legislative session, including:
· AB 438. SB 357 - Military training, education, or other experience may satisfy requirements for certain professional credentials.
· AB 437. SB 369 - Unemployed disabled veterans: income and franchise tax credits for hiring created.
· SB-338. AB-429 - Waives fess for certain professional and occupational licenses issued to veterans.
· SB-339. AB-428 -- Non-competitive appointment of certain disable veterans to classified positions in the state civil service system.
· SB 442 - Converts Gates Hall in Union Grove to a nursing facility instead of assisted living which would alleviate a waiting list and positively impact the solvency of the veterans' nursing homes.
Year of the Veteran also includes several special events to honor and educate the men and women and their families who put service before self. A major cornerstone of this year long recognition of veterans is Operation Greatest Generation, a day of celebration and recognition for the Wisconsin men and women who shaped the course of history during World War II. Among other planned events are:
· A series of listening sessions on employment and reintegration issues for veterans throughout the state hosted by Lt. Governor Kleefisch and Secretary Scocos.
· A Hall of Honor dedication and open house at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
· A ceremony rededicating the Camp Randall arch, a training ground for Wisconsin's Civil War era veterans.