Supporting Our Veterans
The fine men and women of Texas who have served our country with dignity, pride and integrity are the true heroes of our state. The 1.75 million Texas veterans who survived the challenge of combat know that freedom has never been free, but it is worth the price.
Shortly after 9/11, I made 59 recommendations in Texas Responds, the Texas War Relief Package, which was designed to support the families and children of the men and women in harm's way and to thank veterans for their service to our country. One of my recommendations was that Texas should continue state-paid health insurance contributions for state employees called to active duty. I did this at the Comptroller's office, and it was passed into law for all state agencies.
I was pleased to have worked hand-in-glove during the recent regular legislative session with the Texas Veterans Commission to add more counselors to help our veterans identify all the benefits they deserve and to help Texas veterans apply for and receive the federal benefits they have earned. My office determined this appropriation would be at no cost to the state because the dollars these counselors will bring in more than offset the cost; this resulted in the Veterans Commission receiving an extra $306,000 in its budget to hire seven new counselors.
In addition, the Legislature acted on my recommendation and gave the independent Comptroller's office the authority to solicit, as well as accept, gifts and grants on behalf of Texas Veterans. The Texas Veterans Commission can now accept, but not solicit, gifts and grants.
I commend the 2005 Texas Legislature for passing these bills that help improve the quality of life for our fine men and women that have served or are serving in our nation's armed forces, but we can and must do more.
Texas must recognize the sacrifices of military spouses. I have called for extending the Hazlewood Act education assistance to spouses of Texas service members who are killed in the line of duty.
Furthermore, we should realize military pay is often much lower than pay in the private sector, and our military personnel face financial hardships when they are called to lengthy deployments. The law should be changed to allow Texas reservists and National Guard members who are called to active duty to claim an additional homestead exemption for the duration of their deployment.
Finally, we should recognize the sacrifices our disabled veterans have made and increase the homestead exemption for disabled veterans. I will continue to fight for this increase to honor those Texans who have fought and paid so dearly.
Our government must reflect the veterans of Texas--strong, proud, courageous and caring. I salute those whose sacrifices and services ensure the eternal flame of faith, family and freedom.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn