Our Neighbors: Military Service Members and Veterans

Fort Drum is a unique military base because it is integrated into our Northern New York community, providing a home to many of our district’s residents. These residents are community members who attend our local colleges, use our local medical providers, contribute to our economy as employees and consumers, and have children who attend our local schools. Tedra Cobb recognizes that taking care of military personnel, their families, and veterans cannot just be a political talking point or a chance for a photo op; these people are our friends, our neighbors, and integral citizens of the NY 21 district.

 

There are over 1.28 million active duty military personnel currently serving in the United States military;19,605 of those personnel live at Fort Drum. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are an estimated 70,000 veterans living in the twelve counties that make up NY21. This means over 12% of NY21’s residents are active duty military or military veterans. When we consider the number of spouses and children related to these military members, we see how central the treatment of service members and veterans is to this district.

As Tedra has travelled around the district, she has heard from both active duty military and military veterans who are struggling. They have struggled with a lack of necessary resources or policies for military families; they have struggled living in communities that do not understand military culture; they have struggled to transition to post-military life; and they have struggled to find adequate medical treatment for injuries received while in combat or in service. Tedra’s position on military and veterans issues begins with two foundational values. First, we should never send troops into a military conflict without a concrete plan to bring them home and a concrete plan to support their families while they are deployed. Second, we must provide the training and care needed to help service members assimilate back into civilian culture once separated from active military service.

Tedra knows our military capabilities are put at risk when service members worry about the welfare of their families at home or their own safety within the military structure. Tedra supports legislation, such as the Military Family Stability Act, which increases stability for these families by providing flexible timing when moving for new assignments. She also understands the importance of military spouses being allowed to carry licensures and certifications across state lines to facilitate finding employment in the professions in which they are trained. Finally, Tedra supports all individuals willing to serve, including service members who were victims of sexual assault in the military; she supports current efforts to lower the number of sexual assaults and protect victims who speak out from retaliation.

As service members transition from military to civilian life, assimilation is made more difficult by the lack of knowledge most citizens have of military culture. Tedra supports education and awareness campaigns designed to educate civilian citizens on military culture, particularly on the difficulties veterans face when returning to civilian society. Such education may decrease the high rates of unemployment found in veteran populations, particularly for those with a 60% or higher disability rating. Such education would allow civilians to recognize the skills military service veterans bring to civilian jobs, such as leadership and managerial skills, strong work ethics, and organizational abilities.

In addition to education of civilian populations, Tedra supports policies that help veterans transition to civilian life:

  • Funding federal education grants and scholarships
  • Providing federal funds for programs like Arms to Farms, which train veterans in specific trades and professions, such as agriculture.
  • Funding job search assistance, which helps veterans create strong job materials, connect with good employers, and establish strong interviewing skills.

Tedra advocates for streamlining the information processes of these services and funds. First and foremost, service members and their families must be given guidance on how to fully access these programs. Furthermore, we must ensure that the data on existing programs indicates real impacts on the possibilities for employment and future success for veterans and their families.

Many veterans face specific struggles when it comes to accessing healthcare. As VA clinics have outsourced care to corporations, this care has become uneven. Many veterans in Northern New York have to travel to Syracuse, Watertown, Albany, or Burlington to receive medical care. Even when care is accessible, in some cases medical staff have not been trained in military culture or combat trauma, so veterans with head trauma or PTSD cannot get the treatments they need. Tedra believes in making sure medical care is accessible to veterans and ensuring that those working with veterans have the proper cultural and medical training to best serve their patients. Doing so would potentially have an impact on the high rates of drug use in veteran populations, as well as homelessness and legal incidents tied to self-medicating for PTSD and other mental health issues. In addition, Tedra advocates supporting programs, such as Clear Path for Veterans, a private support program in central New York, which uses veteran-to-veteran mentoring to help service members transitioning out of active duty and/or provide a safe place to discuss combat trauma and its lasting effects.

For Tedra, military service members and veterans are more than a political opportunity. They are her neighbors and fellow citizens, whose willingness to serve our nation is something to be admired. The federal government has made its willingness to invest in the combat side of military operations clear. Now, more than ever, we must demand that our government makes equally significant investments in support systems for active military, veterans, and their families, both during and after their service.

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