In Nebraska, our goal is to be the most welcoming state in the country for veterans and military families. Our servicemen and women make tremendous sacrifices to protect our freedoms. While we can never fully repay their service, we can shape state law and policy to better serve their needs.
When they return to civilian life, veterans continue to give and serve to benefit their communities. We’ve seen that spirit of volunteerism on display once again in 2020. American Legions across the state have stepped up to host blood drives as part of our nation’s response to coronavirus. When it was safe to do so, the Legion sponsored baseball and softball leagues so that kids in Nebraska could reconnect with their friends and have fun playing together. These are just a couple of the countless ways veterans continue to serve Nebraska following active duty. Veterans and military families are some of the most dedicated, patriotic citizens in our society. We want more of them to make their home here in the Good Life.
This year, we’ve taken great strides toward our goal of becoming the best state in America for veterans.
Veterans Tax Relief: On August 17, 2020, I signed LB 153 into law. LB 153 exempts 50 percent of military retirement benefit income from state income taxation. Introduced by Senator Tom Brewer, and prioritized by Senator John Lowe, LB 153 moved through three rounds of voting without a single vote in opposition. That’s a testament to the deep respect Nebraskans have for the women and men who serve in our military. Passing LB 153 keeps us competitive with surrounding states that offer tax relief on military retirement pay.
Support for Veteran and Military Caregivers: This week, I proclaimed Nebraska as a “Hidden Heroes” state to recognize the men and women serving as caregivers for our military members and veterans. Over 5.5 million Americans serve as military caregivers. These spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones provide vital, ongoing support to veterans who are ill or injured. These frontline caregivers are critically important to our veterans’ well-being, and they deserve our recognition, thanks, and support.
One of these hidden heroes, Andrea Dorsey, lives in Omaha. Her husband, Joe, received a Purple Heart after being injured by an IED explosion while serving in Iraq in 2004. The trauma of the IED explosion has caused Joe to have chronic physical pain in his neck and back. It’s also left some of the invisible scars that so many of our brave men and women carry home from the battlefield. As a caregiver, Andrea gives emotional support to Joe, while also tirelessly searching for resources to best help him cope with the wounds he sustained in Iraq. She has also worked as a teacher and is a mom to two boys. Andrea’s advocacy on behalf of military caregivers inspired us to take action to become a Hidden Heroes state. In this capacity, we’ll be holding an annual observance to recognize the state’s military and veteran caregivers. We’ve designated a point person at the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA) to offer assistance to caregivers who need support. The NDVA has also created a webpage (veterans.nebraska.gov/hiddenheroes) to raise awareness of the Hidden Heroes in Nebraska and to help them to connect with one another and to available resources.
Welcome Home Packet: Each year, between 800 and 1,100 Nebraskans discharge from military service. I send a letter to welcome them back to our state. In the letter, I encourage them to seek out their county veteran service officer or to contact NDVA’s State Service Office to learn about benefits, services, and other resources available to them. NDVA has developed a new Welcome Home packet to accompany my letter. It includes information on the wide range of Nebraska benefits available to veterans, a guide to getting federal benefits, and more. The welcome packet is another way we’re being more customer-focused, and bringing the information directly to our state’s newest veterans.
Website Enhancements: NDVA has made significant improvements to its website this year to make it easier to navigate. The new veterans.nebraska.gov has a suite of employment tools in the Nebraska Veterans’ Gateway. Interactive maps help connect veterans with their county veteran service offices and showcase the behavioral and mental health resources available across the state. NDVA also added a live chat feature to the website in May so that veterans and their families can connect with an accredited state service officer virtually rather than having to make an in-person visit. This is a tremendously helpful feature at a time when many of our veterans are trying to limit social interactions to reduce risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Connecting Veterans & Military Families to Job Opportunities: One of our biggest areas of focus over the past couple years has been giving our military families access to more job opportunities. We expanded the hiring preference for the State of Nebraska to include spouses of service members. I signed a regulation to allow military spouses to receive a three-year teaching permit in Nebraska with a valid out-of-state license. We provided reciprocity for military spouses all over the country by updating language for adoption of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to have one multi-state license. Additionally, I worked with the Legislature on a law authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to issue temporary licenses to military spouses working in occupations regulated under the Uniform Credentialing Act.
These are just a few examples of the great work going on across the state to make Nebraska the best state in the nation to retire as a veteran. If you have questions about our ongoing efforts, please email [email protected] or call 402-471-2244. Together, let’s continue to show our respect and appreciation to the men and women who have bravely defended our freedoms.