Sen. Jason Welch: Veterans’ issues are front and center [Foothills Media Group]

January 25, 2013

It’s our obligation to look out for those who serve their country. I have served in both the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and Army National Guard, and I am keenly aware of how hard it is for some of our service members to transition back to civilian life, or for them to continue active duty while worrying about loved ones at home. It’s stressful but it is part of the job.

To that end, it is important to have support from your community and your government with any issues that arise. I’m very proud to say the leaders in Hartford have agreed to make the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which has been a temporary committee for eight years, into a full standing entity, with equal power in the legislative process. As a member of the committee charged with overseeing public policy related to veterans, elevating this committee simply makes sense.

Allowing the group to have a permanent status is extremely important to the veteran community. For instance, this move will now allow the Committee Co-Chairmen, State Sen. Carlo Leone, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and State Rep. Jack Hennessy, a veteran of the U.S. Army, to move legislation faster. Prior to this, the committee could not bring bills directly to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote. Instead, bills had to be debated and passed on to another committee, then brought to the floor by that committee’s chairperson. It was certainly a long and complicated road for any bill that veterans were anxious about getting passed.

Laws like the recent one that places the veteran status flag on drivers’ licenses, thus allowing veterans to prove their status. This simple measure will give them access to health programs and discounts at stores.

On the first day of the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to adopt rules elevating the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to permanent “standing” status. The decision had both Republican and Democratic support.

The move was also applauded by the Connecticut Veterans’ Military Coalition and many other veterans’ advocacy organizations. Here are some of their comments on the vote.

• Dan Thurston, chairman of the Connecticut Veterans and Military Coalition (CVMC) and past state commander of The American Legion: “This is a significant event for our state’s’ veterans and active duty military to be represented by a Standing Committee in the halls of our government.”

• “I think this is one big step that the State of Connecticut has made to help its veterans,” said Wayne Morgan, state commander of the American Legion.

• American Legion Department Adjutant Everett G. Shepard III: “This is an action that we have endorsed for several years and re-affirmed by vote as recently as our Nov. 25 Department Executive Committee meeting. We look forward to many years of support to the Veterans Affairs Committee.”

• “This upgrade of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee creates the best access we can have for veterans to the state legislature,” said Gen. Daniel McHale, Transition Assistance Advisor for the State of Connecticut, and Chapter President of the Association of the U.S. Army. “It brings veterans’ concerns into parity with other issues. Those who raised their right hand and swore service to their country deserve that. It has been a long time coming.”

• “As an increasing number of Connecticut’s active duty servicemen and women rejoin their civilian population, the Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will, for the first time since 1947, stand poised to most effectively address their needs as veterans,” said Bob Hunter, Veterans of Foreign Wars of Connecticut (VFW) legislative chairman.

It is great to know that our veterans groups are being supported by leaders in Hartford. And I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of veterans. I have also dedicated a section of my senate website to Veterans Affairs. Please visit it at, and click on the Veterans Corner.

I also can be reached at [email protected] or at 800-842-1421 if you would like to share your ideas or concerns.