Dave Skocik is the president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition and the Friends of Delaware Veterans. Paul Davis is the coalition’s vice president and the president of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Delaware council.
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan” — Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address in 1865, paying tribute and promise to those who kept our nation whole.
In March 2023, the Department of Veterans Affairs amended it to include women: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” Amen.
To our honorable legislators, welcome back! The Delaware Veterans Coalition supports Senate Bill 201, offered by Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Camden — with support from across the aisle — which would allow Delaware’s veterans to keep more of the money they’ve earned in service to Delaware and beyond.
They and our Guard and Reserve forces serve at the discretion of our elected officials, even when it may mean injury and death in a hostile nation, to say nothing of separations from family. We read their names three times a year at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park.
The coalition sees the larger need for Delaware veterans through the appointment of a secretary of veterans affairs to the governor’s cabinet. The appointee must be someone who has served in uniform because the principles of “Duty, Honor, Country” are earned and shared among veterans, regardless of branch or conflict or even incarceration. That imbued understanding creates the connection of caring for and understanding fellow veterans, which lasts a lifetime.
More than 99% of us are protected by the men and women who defend our right to live our lives without fear of invasion by hostile forces, and they deserve all the benefits they earn. The secretary’s focus should be on veterans and their families, along with ways to best incorporate their skills and expertise into their communities.
It’s concerning that recruitment has plummeted amid conflict in multiple countries that could lead to call-ups of Americans. Military service runs in families, but if Mom, Dad and family who have served feel ignored, we cannot expect their children to enlist.
From a financial perspective, the Caesar Rodney Institute has estimated that veterans bring more than 4 billion federal dollars to Delaware each year. That number includes earned benefits; retirements; disability payments; housing; schools and facilities like hospitals, military medical clinics and rehabilitation services; and GI Bill educational benefits that support Delaware’s institutions of higher learning. Dover Air Force Base alone adds thousands of well-paying jobs and expertise to our state.
Military retirees between 28–60 (and even one-enlistment veterans) have been trained in leadership and educated to do multiple jobs in the high-tech world of defense against adversaries. They include information technology experts, teachers, logicians, doctors and dentists, aircraft maintainers, pilots, engineers, construction workers, metal fabricators, electricians, security experts and world-class managers. And, most importantly, they have the ability and courage to do these things in hostile circumstances.
Veterans must continue academic training if they want to be promoted. Many enlisted hold bachelor’s and even master’s degrees. Twenty-seven states exempt military retirement from taxes; another five — Colorado, Maryland, Montana, Oregon and Vermont — have proposed legislation to join them. Twelve additional states provide partial exemption.
These are the states businesses visit to recruit staff and even relocate their businesses to. Delaware is losing a wealth of talent and skilled labor at a time when our workforce is aging and needs young, educated, healthy and motivated workers.
In fiscal year 2022, Veterans Affairs statistics listed 69,679 veterans, including 9,479 retirees, who call Delaware home. That doesn’t include their families. The fact is, military veterans and retirees coming to or remaining in Delaware are buying houses, vehicles, services and goods, and engaging with their communities.
In conclusion, a secretary of veterans affairs and his/her staff will have the resources and ability to ensure Delaware veterans receive the care, treatment and benefits they merit, along with maintaining the additional federal funding and resources they will bring to our state.
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