By Governor Pete Ricketts
June 11, 2018
Official photo here.
United States military veterans are our country’s heroes. They put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom, and here in Nebraska, we work to honor them all year long. This week, I had the honor of hosting a 99-year-old World War II veteran, Sidney Walton, at the State Capitol. Nebraskans joined us to help honor him as well as hear directly from someone who served on the front lines. With the passing of time, it is critical that we connect younger generations with history, so that the significance of the war does not fade with the passing of the Greatest Generation.
Remembering our veterans is important, but how we treat them is a pivotal part of honoring their service and sacrifice. President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.” That is why I have made it a priority to make Nebraska the best state in the nation to be a veteran. To this end, we have been streamlining services for our veterans, expanding employment opportunities, and advocating for our veterans, among other things.
When veterans interact with the state, they generally work with the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA). Last year, the Legislature and I worked together to merge the state’s two veterans-related agencies to create a one-stop shop for veterans, so we can better integrate service delivery. NDVA provides our veterans with information on their rights, benefits, and other sources of aid. And now they also oversee our veterans’ homes in four communities from Bellevue to Scottsbluff.
Taking care of our veterans means we must work to retain quality staff who serve them. That is why I recently approved a 20 percent pay increase for staff care technicians, who serve our veterans. Wages for Nebraska’s veterans care workers were falling behind peer states, so we took this step to become more competitive. This pay increase will improve recruitment and retention among our staff care technicians who take care of our veterans.
My administration also understands that our nation’s veterans are not the only people who sacrificed for our freedoms. Our servicemen and women could not do it without the love and support of their family. Parents worry about their children, and spouses wonder if their loved ones will come home. This takes a toll on military families. Our understanding of the role military families play in the lives of our veterans and active duty service members was part of the inspiration for LB 639, a bill I signed in 2017. This proposal expanded the hiring preference at the State of Nebraska to include the spouses of veterans and active duty service members. Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard and I worked together on this bill to increase employment opportunities for the spouses of military members and veterans. They should also be rewarded for their sacrifice in times of crisis.
This year, I approved revisions to Rule 21 to make it easier for teachers from military families moving to Nebraska to get a teaching permit here. Military spouses with a valid out-of-state teaching license can now receive a three-year teaching permit in Nebraska. Cutting red tape makes Nebraska friendlier to military families, and it has given our schools the opportunity to employ high-quality teachers in a timely manner.
We have also been working with our federal delegation to advocate for our veterans at the federal level and support efforts to improve service in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last week, President Donald J. Trump signed the VA Mission Act. The VA Mission Act is a bill aimed at strengthening the VA healthcare system and improving the lives of veterans, their families, and caregivers. It provides $5.2 billion more in funding for our veterans. President Trump and Congress worked hard to get this priority done for our veterans, and we greatly appreciate their work.
The State of Nebraska has a duty to do what is right for our veterans, and we are working every day to make our state the best place to be a veteran. My team will continue to work to streamline services, expand job opportunities, and advocate for our veterans. We are always looking for ways to serve our veteran community better. If you have ideas on how we can improve our veterans’ services, I want to hear them. Give my office a call at 402-471-2244 or email me at email@example.com.