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Legislators, don't forget about supporting veterans

Delaware State News - 4/24/2018

On April 6, I was invited to make remarks at a bill signing in Hockessin by New Castle County legislators, including County Executive Matthew Meyer, that provided an additional $5,000 county tax credit for people who are totally and permanently disabled. Although not restricted to veterans, its genesis was Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick's response to a young former Marine with a wife and two small children who accompanied him to the signing.

On a larger note as our legislators deal with the issues that affect us, I'm hoping they don't forget to restore the 20 percent reduction to nonprofits cut from last year's budget, especially the ones that affect veterans. A committee to review the list receiving funding from the state has not yet been formed.

There is no one who contributes more to our security than our active duty, Reserve and Guard members who sacrifice their family time, effort and lives to protect us. The proof is the regular arrival of fallen heroes to the mortuary at Dover AFB. Veterans are highly trained, provide leadership, initiative, volunteerism, and bring love of country to their communities. Fewer than one in four young people even qualify to enter the military based on factors like education level, physical fitness, substance abuse, and police records.

While we live in a ?veteran friendly' state relative to legislative tributes, specialized license plates, memorials, road naming and other non-revenue items, Delaware is very limited in providing direct assistance to veterans. The Delaware Veterans Trust Fund, that has been assisting honorably discharged veterans in financial emergency for more than four years, became law with the caveat that it must be self-supporting. Some states provide tax exemptions for military retirement pay and disabled veterans while Delaware does not.

Veteran service organizations are not charities. They provide assistance to their members and ask for very little in return. They receive $244,233 grant in aid from the state, yet veterans overall bring more than $2 billion annually to our state economy.

That includes their paychecks, retirement and disability benefits, federal education and health care funding that includes the VA hospital in Elsmere, clinics in every county, the Veterans Home in Milford and more recently, health care from civilian providers under expanded VA guidelines. Nor does that include the revenue and jobs created at Dover AFB.

Since 1999, a veteran service officer, primarily supported by the Delaware'sVietnam Veterans of America, has helped disabled veterans from all generations claim about $1.7 million annually in benefits due them, yet would have had to close his office last year had the state VVA council not pledged to replace the $12,000 cut from his state grant. They are still struggling to make up the money.

Delaware's 87,000 veterans also start businesses, create jobs and pay their taxes. Most important, we own them our freedom. They run toward danger on our behalf. They and their families also understand and value the power of the ballot. June (end of session) is coming; so is November.

Legislators, don't forget the vet. Dave Skocik, president

Delaware Veterans Coalition Dover


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