The NCSL Blog

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By Jim Reed, Jennifer Schultz, Brooke Oleen Tieperman and Jon Jukuri

Most Americans will never serve in the military or step foot on a battlefield, but many feel an obligation to support those who have.

Vietnam memorial at the Colorado State CapitolToday is Veterans Day, a holiday created to honor all those who have served in an American war. It began as Armistice Day in 1919, the first anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in World War I—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Exactly 100 years later, the U.S. still counts a large population of veterans and military families. They live in every state and community and this Veterans Day will see numerous celebrations of our military veterans across the nation.

We should be moved to make a difference for and alongside these key communities, especially on Veterans Day. Thanking or helping a veteran, servicemember or someone in their family reciprocates service and support that matter and make a difference.

State legislatures have set the stage for 2020 with a vision to best serve those who’ve represented and sacrificed for, as part of military service – all of us. Supporting our veteran and military communities is a collective duty.

NCSL tracks and shares the many state policies and programs that serve military veterans through its Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs and the NCSL staff. Recent work is profiled below.

How NCSL Helps  

NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs

Fifty-four state legislators and legislative staff from 28 states make up NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. It joins key partners in support of the U.S. military, our veterans and their families.

Shaping and sharing policy solutions to enhance experiences, encourage progress and truly make a difference for those most intimately involved and deserving in the military matters. It matters today, yesterday and into the future.

Task Force members got a glimpse last month inside Marine Corps Base Hawaii and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Oahu. Made possible in part through programmatic support by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, Americans for the Arts, and the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures, perspectives grew around Hawaii’s smaller, isolated land base.

Forces have come together to manage encroachment, allowing for successful operation of Bellows Beach, one of the last amphibious landing training spaces in the U.S. Partnering to share services and resources – like opening that same beach to the public on weekends and operating nearby a simulated urban combat zone – demonstrates significance and success on so many levels.

It’s evident the state of Hawaii and the military presence in the area enable us to stand as an economic, strategically-positioned powerhouse for national security interests and relations in the Asia-Pacific. More on the meeting here.

Occupational Licensing Project

NCSL, along with partners at the Council of State Governments and National Governors Association, has been working with a group of 16 states on a multi-year project to identify solutions and best practices to the challenges that occupational licensing policy can pose to workers.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the project provides states with individualized technical assistance and opportunities to share their work with others. One aspect of the project focuses on population groups that are disproportionately affected by the various requirements of occupational licensing across states, including veterans and military spouses.

For more information, see NCSL’s Barriers to Work paper along with a recent blog on military spouse employment and new resources created by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Military Suicide Prevention Work

Lawmakers are helping in the prevention of suicides by veterans with a variety of programs. At recent NCSL meetings, perspectives from state, federal and the nonprofit arts were illuminated. Suicides across all U.S. populations are on the rise since 1999, with nine states experiencing an increase of between 38% and 58% in that time frame. Along with efforts by the federal government, states are training professionals to assess suicide risk, increasing funding to specific programs, and better-supporting servicemembers transitioning to civilian life.

At a recent meeting, the NCSL task force heard about the Utah SafeUT Smartphone app designed to assist students and now military veterans and those serving in the National Guard. The app is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention through live chat and a confidential tip program from smartphones. In 2020, NCSL will be compiling an inventory of state policies that serve and assist veterans through supportive counseling, suicide prevention and referral services.

Publications and Other Resources

NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs staff put out publications and respond to research requests on a regular basis. We also maintain a legislation database covering 15 topic areas, including employment, education, mental health and mission sustainability.

Our newest report, "A Path to Employment for Veterans with Disabilities," provides demographic and employment data for veterans with disabilities, along with 12 state policy options to support those entering or remaining a part of the civilian workforce. An "Our American States" podcast featuring report authors Jim Reed and Jennifer Schultz is now available.

Jim Reed and Jennifer Schultz staff the NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.