In a recent legislative update, State Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, said his office is working hard to make changes for veterans and active duty soldiers.
Last week, Reeves was in Seattle for the first in-person meeting in two years of the National Conference of State Legislators’ Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs, of which he is co-chair. Some of the group’s primary goals are to bolster National Guard recruitment, resiliency and retention, the state senator said in the update.
“At the national level, we’ve tackled combating veteran suicide and how we can facilitate better mental health awareness and treatment at the state level,” Reeve said in the update.
He participated in a discussion at the meeting on veteran suicide prevention, the implementation of the 988 crisis hotline, and related topics with Rep. Tina Orwall, a Washington Democrat, and Codie Marie Garza, director of the suicide prevention program at the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.
There was also an overview of state programs to support female veterans, as women make up 11% of the nation’s 17 million veterans, according to NCSL.
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This is expected to increase as women now make up 20% of new recruits, 15% of active duty military and 18% of guard and reserve forces, according to ncsl.org.
The state senator was able to visit Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state. Participants took the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton and were picked up by base personnel.
Kitsap is the third-largest United States Navy facility in the United States, home to a range of strategic missions, including all types of submarines, two Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the largest fuel depot in the continental United States, according to ncsl.org.
There have also been home wins in Virginia recently, Reeve said in the update. Youngkin signed two of his bills into law on Friday — SB529 and SB768.
SB768 amends the definition of “qualified survivors and dependents” under the Virginia Military Survivor and Dependent Education Program to include that a child who is the stepson of a deceased service member will receive all the benefits of the program, in accordance with the legislative update.
The education program is a key recruiting tool to entice veterans to stay in Virginia, Reeves said. It provides tuition and fee waivers for severely disabled veterans and families of military personnel who have died while on active duty.
The reality of modern families is such that some veterans may have been step-parents to a child since birth, but never legally adopted the child. Senate Bill 768 fixes that.
The state senator said SB529 was another big win for active duty members.
“The Pentagon has emphasized the operational importance of having consistent and affordable child care services for active duty military members. This bill is a massive first step in making child care easier to access for all active duty members of our Commonwealth,” Reeves said.
The state senator is one of six Republican congressional candidates seeking the Republican nomination in June to run against two-term incumbent Abigail Spanberger, D-7e. Reeves, active in veterans’ causes and legislation, is a former Army Ranger who also worked as a narcotics detective.