Delaware Valley politicians want to do their part for veterans, and they have stepped up their efforts in the legislature and on the street as Independence Day approaches.
A pro-veteran resolution supported by multiple senators, including Montgomery Sen. Tracy Pennycuick and Bucks Sen. Frank Farry, unanimously passed the Senate last Thursday, Farry told DVJournal.
If it is approved, the resolution would “direct the Joint State Government Commission to establish the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care.”
Farry said he was moved to support the proposal after hearing from constituents about the shortfalls in healthcare for female veterans.
“The impetus of it was, in working with some of my veterans at home, I came to realize—people can talk about the VA (Veterans Affairs) and the level of service they get, but in the case of women, it was so much more extreme in terms of lack of service,” he said.
“Even though that’s more of a federal responsibility, that doesn’t mean we as a state can’t take a look at the issue,” he continued. “It’s important that our veterans have the proper care. And if there are specific needs for women, we want to make sure those resources are available for our female veterans.”
Pennycuick told DVJournal women “continue to make up a growing percentage of our nation’s armed services and veteran community.”
The senator claimed “nearly 60,000 women veterans in Pennsylvania” and that “by 2045, it is estimated that women will make up approximately 18 percent of commonwealth veterans.”
“As a veteran myself, I know the struggles firsthand female veterans experience trying to obtain care to match their unique needs,” she said. “Establishing the Women Veterans’ Health Care Task Force will help to bridge these gaps and ensure that every veteran has access to the care they deserve.”
The resolution would direct the task force to include “a mental healthcare provider” with relevant experience working with veterans, along with both a “substance abuse and addiction treatment provider” and a “healthcare provider,” each possessing similar experience. Veterans have historically faced mental health, addiction, and healthcare problems at higher rates than the general population.
Farry said the task force “is a crucial step in ensuring female veterans have access to health care designed to support their specific needs.”
“I am proud to support this resolution and will continue to advocate for those that risk everything in service to our country,” he said.
At the local level, Republicans in Chester County will hold a clothing drive for veterans in what has become an annual tradition every Fourth of July.
The Republican Committee of Chester County will serve several dozen veterans at the third RCCC Veterans’ Clothing Drive. The program is a function of the RCCC Charis Community Outreach Program. (The word “charis” is derived from a Greek word meaning “kindness” or “life.”)
John DeSantis, an organizer with the RCCC, told DVJournal that the event began small three years ago.
“We started very locally with the West Goshen Township Republican Committee,” DeSantis said. “It was [RCCC Charis Community Outreach Director] Dave Sommers who came up with the idea to collect clothes for the veterans and tie it into July 4th.”
Sommers “took that idea to the county committee and said, ‘We’re doing a lot of good stuff with the West Goshen GOP; can we move some of this stuff up to the county level?’ And that was approved.”
“We ask for what the vets are looking for,” DeSantis said. “We get a list of T-shirts, shorts, underwear, and socks. This year there are some sunglasses requests.”
“They’ve also started a Food Pantry at the VA,” he said. “So we have some food donations to take over.”
Meanwhile, Sens. John Kane (D-Chester) and Maria Collett (D-Montgomery) are among those lining up behind another pro-veteran bill in the Senate; this one meant to support veteran-owned businesses in the state.
Senate Bill 438 would, if passed, “authorize the creation of special logos to promote veteran-owned businesses,” Senate Republicans said in a release.
Participating businesses must be 51 percent owned by “a veteran, reservist or member of the National Guard.” Half of the registration fees associated with the program would benefit the Veterans’ Trust Fund, which distributes grants to nonprofit groups assisting veterans throughout the state.
Montgomery Democratic Sen. Maria Collett told DVJournal she was “pleased to see [the bill] pass out of committee this week.”
“According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are 45 percent more likely to start their own business than non-veterans,” she said. “I’m honored to represent a district with such a strong military presence and legacy, and I’m proud to support legislative efforts like this to better support veterans across our Commonwealth.”
“It is not easy to transition from serving our great country to civilian life,” Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver), the bill’s primary sponsor, said.
“The men and women who wish to run their own business while navigating life after military service are inspiring and deserve our support,” she said. “In addition to supporting our veterans, this program would also support the creation of new jobs and business opportunities.”