What WV Can’t Wait For
West Virginia will be the best place in the country for veterans.
Whose Side We’re On
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
Twenty veterans die by their own hands every day in this country: 20 today, 20 tomorrow–nearly one every hour.
Those among us who sacrifice the most for our country, are treated the worst by our wealthy Good Old Boy politicians and the lobbyists and millionaires they serve.
West Virginia is home to roughly 145,171 veterans, which is nearly 10% of the state’s population. The unemployment rate here among veterans was 7.6% in 2017, compared to the US average of 4.6% in August, 2019. More than 20% of our state’s veterans have a disability; more than 8% of live in poverty, and 137 veterans are homeless–and nearly 15,000 live in housing “with one or more major problems.”
It doesn’t have to be this way.
West Virginia has a proud tradition of military service. We have often led the nation into battle. Now we must lead the nation in honoring our veterans.
- Prioritize the health of veterans. We will put forward $12 million annually to support innovative projects, programs, and infrastructure that improve the health and well-being of Veterans.
- Start by funding and building the past-due veterans nursing home in Beckley.
- Establish the nation’s most aggressive state veteran suicide prevention plan–addressing mental health, housing and food insecurity, substance abuse, and other issues–led by and for veterans.
- Support Veteran Administration efforts to provide MST (Military Sexual Trauma Treatment) as well as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) treatment.
- Institute a $250 annual “Honoring the Sacrifice” tax credit for every West Virginia veteran to help alleviate financial strain for veterans and their families. Also, update our laws to recognize those who have served significant time in the National Guard as veterans for tax and other purposes.
- Provide a state GI Bill for West Virginia veterans and their families, including for current or former members of the Reserve and National Guard, that provides a $1000 stipend to help them cover the costs of higher ed, including vocational or trade school. This stipend can be combined with any additional educational waivers, grants, and services they may qualify for, including tuition in our Higher Education for All plan.
- All veterans with documented wartime service, as well as spouses and children of veterans with wartime service, will receive the living stipend to help pay for books and other expenses.
- All Purple Heart recipients, their spouses or widows, and their children and grandchildren (whether the Purple Heart recipient is living or deceased) will receive the same stipend.
- All Gold Star parents, siblings, and nieces/nephews of fallen servicemen without children will receive the same stipend.
- All veterans (with an honorable, medical, or under-honorable-conditions discharge) without wartime service, as well as their spouses and children, shall receive a stipend of half that amount.
- Partner with the newly-formed Political Corruption Division of the State Police to investigate and hold VA hospitals and veterans services accountable for inefficient or criminal behavior.
- Honor veterans at the Capitol.
- Any Veteran or Gold Star Family member with a state-issued license plate designating veteran service of any kind will never be required to pay parking fees when visiting the state Capitol, and will not be charged a fine for not paying parking meter fees at the state Capitol.
- Fund and award the WV Distinguished Service Medal to all WV Purple Heart recipients, and also fund and update the current veterans service medals laws (including service cross and lapel pin) to assure they are all manufactured and awarded in an appropriate manner.
- Ensure veterans and their families have a real voice in policy-making, and require that our legislators spend time addressing their concerns every year. Appoint the state commander or their representative from each of the 19 legally established veterans service organization (VSO) to the Governors Veterans Council and give each a vote. These positions will be in addition to the multiyear legislatively-approved appointees. Two representatives from the Veterans Council will be selected to serve in a compensated position, offering the perspective of veterans on bills that come before the legislature. One day each legislative session will be designated specifically to address issues faced by military families; meetings on other subjects will not be permitted that day. Additionally, one day each week of session will be reserved for military families and citizens, with lobbyists not permitted on Capitol grounds that day.
- Create a jobs promise for veterans. Prefer hiring veterans in our plan creating tens of thousands of middle-class jobs over the next decade in fields of agriculture, law enforcement, broadband, water, cannabis, and small business. See Mountaineer Service Corps Jobs Plan, our Legalize Cannabis plan, Family Farms plan, Small Business Revolution, and other plans for full details.
- End homelessness among veterans. Approximately 134 WV veterans are homeless. See full details in our plan to End Homelessness in WV.
How We Pay For It
Total cost: $47.2 million annually, which will come from some of the revenue generated by our Homestead Act.
- Beckley Veterans Nursing Home and future projects and infrastructure for veterans – $12 million
- Tax Credit: $32.7 million (estimating that 90 percent of veterans take advantage of it)
- State GI Bill stipend: $2.5 million (estimating roughly 2500 students per year, at roughly $1000 per person)
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at email@example.com.