Of all the commemorative holidays that we celebrate together as Americans, Veterans Day carries with it a personal significance. On this day, I am not only reminded of the millions of brave men and women who have valiantly served in our armed forces; I am also moved by the memories of my family’s respective military service, which distinctly shaped my path as a public servant.
Thanks in large part to my father and brother’s experiences, I personally know how difficult it is to see a loved one deployed, uncertain of what their future holds. I have also seen first-hand how challenging it can be for a Veteran to readjust to civilian life and how important it is to count on a solid network of support. These personal experiences shaped my worldview and that is why serving Veterans is one of my priorities.
With gratitude as my guide, today, I proudly serve as an advocate for Veterans both as a member of the the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Governor’s Military Council. In this dual capacity I seek to highlight Veterans issues and to give our Veterans the assistance they earned and deserve. In this endeavor, this year, I dedicated a portion of my legislative bills to our Veterans. In March, I introduced a Veterans Package made up of three bills that sought to assist Veterans with complex mental health and behavioral needs, accelerate the path to work for Veterans transitioning into civilian life and reward State Military Reservists and Naval Militia for their extended service.
After months of advocacy and fighting for these bills in both chambers of the Legislature, I was proud to see one of these bills, Senate Bill 410, receive bipartisan support and signed into law.
This law will improve access to State employment for newly discharged Veterans by allowing Veterans, prior to separating from the military, to submit a signed document by a commanding officer that verifies military service and impending honorable discharge. Currently, Veterans must provide a Department of Defense form known as a DD-214 to verify their military service, a process that can take a few months and delay access to employment. With its implementation, SB 410 will help open the doors for a successful transition from military service to civilian life. Additionally, to further support our Veterans, I was proud to co-author Senate Bill 339 which requires a study of Veterans Treatment Courts to find ways to provide greater access to substance abuse and counseling for Veterans in need of such services. For my efforts on behalf of Veterans, I am honored to have received the 2016 American Legion Legislator of the Year Award and just this week, I was humbled to be named the 2017 Legislator of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans of America.
While I am proud of these achievements, I recognize that much work remains to be done to ensure that our Veterans receive adequate support as they transition into civilian life. Our Veterans have served this country valiantly and with selfless devotion. For these great sacrifices, I am committed to ensuring that our State not only honors the contributions of our Veterans through celebrations but also dedicates appropriate resources to support their success beyond military service.
On this Veterans Day, I call on all Americans to join me by paying tribute to those courageous men and women who have donned the uniform of the United States and to further recognize all Veteran families for their unwavering support.
To our Veterans, thank you for your courage and valiant defense of the principles of freedom and democracy. Our great nation is forever indebted to you for your selfless service.
With sincere gratitude,
Senator Janet Nguyen