As I noted in last week’s blog, I am a believer in our veterans. I am not only a believer but a supporter of our military personnel, and that support doesn’t end once they return to civilian life. Indeed, while the military was responsible for their members when they were on active duty, it is we, legislators and citizens alike, who must offer the support and direction they both deserve and frequently need upon their re-entry into civilian life.
It is not that veterans are incapable of directing their own life, but given the special price they have already paid, it behooves us as a nation with a moral responsibility to provide assistance for them in a practical and sometimes an extraordinary way.
I hope that my blogs have always caught the spirit of the issues I raise, but it is the legislation that I either introduce or support that puts action behind these published words. This holds particularly true for my commitment to veterans. We’ve acknowledged them, we’ve saluted them and then sometimes, unintentionally, we forget them. I have no intention of doing so, and that is precisely why we must step in. This year, I have introduced dozens of bills to assist veterans and their families – bills that seek to improve veterans’ access to higher education, jobs, food security, social services, and housing. It is the latter that I will focus on this week, having introduced or supported several bills that seek to address the need for affordable housing for veterans.
BILLS I SPONSORED TO ADDRESS VETERANS
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
- S-73 Provides gross income tax credit to certain totally and permanently disabled veterans for rent
- S2143 Grants credit against business income taxes to a developer of rental housing reserved for occupancy by veterans.
- S-2197 Establishes disabled veteran tenant gross income tax credit.
- S-2525 Directs Adjutant General to enter into agreements with legal services organizations to provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness.
- S-2607 Authorizes grants to purchase and rehabilitate abandoned homes for homeless veterans.
- S-2629 Requires hospitals and homeless shelters to provide information on services and resources to individuals who are homeless or military veterans.
For example, with regards to home ownership, I have sponsored an amendment to the New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act. This important legislation, S-2607, would establish a pilot program for the purchase and rehabilitation of abandoned homes for homeless or low-income veterans by organizations that have experience in this area. Indeed, this bill has a positive duality that should appeal to all. It gives homeless or low-income veterans a key, ultimately, to a residence they can call home, one of the most stabilizing influences in most people’s lives. It also helps the community because it transforms an eyesore into a personal victory for a deserving veteran. What better way to anchor a veteran to his community in a dignified and life-changing way than to assist him or her with a home of their own?
In addition to homeownership, we also want to help those veterans who rent their homes. Earlier this year, I introduced another bill, S-2143, designed to stimulate interest for developers to consider the veteran tenant market by providing them with a tax incentive. This bill would grant credit against business income taxes to developers of rental housing reserved for occupancy by veterans. This size of the veteran market is significant. Estimates suggest that more than 630,000 veterans live in New Jersey, and more than 500,000 are civilians.
As I reread this bill, I thought the wording perfectly captures the rationale, not only for this legislation but for all the bills I have introduced on behalf of veterans. Sometimes the language in an official bill is both complicated and even dense. Not in this instance. The wording is simple, plain and heartfelt, and that is why I wanted to share it with you. In part, it says:
“Repeated and extended deployment in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it especially difficult for military personnel serving since September 11, 2001, to find housing suited to their unique situations. Veterans have served our country in times of war and peace, sharing a common belief in a cause higher than self. Veterans are valuable members of communities across New Jersey, and their experience serving their country has endowed them with unique and valuable experience. The State and the nation owe much to those who have chosen to serve in the Armed Forces. It is essential to the public good to encourage the development of stable, decent housing for New Jersey’s veterans.”
And that my dear friends, is what veterans deserve in New Jersey and everywhere.
That’s my take, what’s yours?