It is good that the Republican and democratic gubernatorial candidates came out last week with proposals to help veterans they pledge to pursue if elected, but some of the measures offered by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown could be implemented now and would provide immediate help to struggling veterans.
Republican nominee Larry Hogan said he would push for eliminating income taxes on veterans' pensions. Later, Democratic nominee Brown said he'd also exempt military retirement income from state income taxes for most veterans.
But Brown also proposed a "compact with Maryland veterans" that includes helping veterans find jobs and establishing a treatment court for veterans with addiction or mental health-related problems, providing more assistance to help homeless veterans get housing, providing loans to veterans who are awaiting benefits they deserve and establishing a "VetConnect Challenge Program" that encourages business to hire veterans.
Touting his accomplishments on his campaign website, Brown notes, "We passed the Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013, making it easier for Veterans to use the skills they've learned in the military to find work or return to college once they return home; supported Veteran Small Business Owners through no-interest loans; and invested close to $7 million in our Veterans' Behavioral Health Initiative."
Brown and the rest of the current O'Malley administration should work now to expand upon some of the previous initiatives in order to help more veterans. Given the well-publicized problems at the Veterans Administration, getting help to vets with medical or mental health needs should be a priority today, not the byproduct of some election campaign promise.
We've neglected the needs of our veterans far too long in Maryland and across the country.
A January report in Stars and Stripes noted that about 22 veterans a day take their own life. Add in the current VA controversy, in which veterans died while awaiting care, and the need for immediate action is evident.
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Brown, Hogan and all our elected leaders would be doing a better service if they combined their efforts to determine immediate initiatives that could be implemented to help veterans instead of using promises of future help for veterans as a way to get votes.