Like all Americans, I am grateful to the men and women in uniform who defend our nation’s liberties and values around the world. Nearly 1.9 million veterans reside in California, each with a personal story of service and sacrifice.
Even though there was conflict about our involvement in the Vietnam War, I appreciated the commitment and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors and aviators. In middle school, I joined with my classmates in collecting books and magazines to help bring comfort to our military personnel stationed in Southeast Asia. Our school collected 8,000 items and we were honored with a photo in my local newspaper
. “Steven Glazer was the top collector bringing in 810 magazines and books,” the photo caption said. This project taught me the importance of service and to never lose sight of the people who sacrifice for our country.
California has an obligation to help veterans when they return to their communities. As a California State University trustee since 2011, I have supported our system’s work to help our 13,000 veteran students at our 23 university campuses. Every CSU campus has a veteran team with a Veterans Service Coordinator serving as the primary point of contact. Veterans receive priority admission and registration for classes throughout their CSU educational careers. CSU supports their academic success through veteran-focused tutoring, advising, mentoring and counseling.
I have long been interested in the needs of California veterans, especially affordable housing. In 2002, I managed the successful statewide campaign for Proposition 46, which created a trust fund for military veteran homeownership assistance, among other purposes. The Vietnam Veterans of California organization gave its endorsement: "Our veterans have protected American interests at home and around the world. This measure makes available low-interest loans so they can purchase their first home.” Four years later, I served as campaign manager for Proposition 1C, which extended homeownership assistance to more California military veterans and their families. As homeownership is beyond the financial reach of many Californians, I am pleased to have helped veterans to settle down and achieve their dreams.
The following are important goals to improve state services to veterans:
1. County Veterans Service Offices (VSO’s) need adequate state funds to staff and assist veterans with navigating through myriad levels of bureaucracy, especially claims for service-connected injuries and access to state aid.
2. The California Department of Veterans Affairs needs adequate resources to promote its services and county services statewide.
3. The State Employment Development Department (EDD) should develop a partnership with County Veteran Service Offices so that veterans can more easily file for unemployment benefits, especially after they are discharged from active duty military service. Many veterans are eligible for unemployment benefits, but fail to file for them due to ignorance or stigma. The County VSO’s could be empowered to file the forms with EDD on behalf of veterans and act as a liaison between veterans and EDD.
4. Each California community college with more than 200 veterans enrolled as students should provide a special veterans counselor to help veteran scholars with academic support, career advice, health services and veteran benefit counseling. Ideally the counselor would be a veteran. The program now at Las Positas College in Livermore could serve as a model.
5. Some veterans exhaust their G.I. Bill education benefits before completing their bachelor or graduate degrees. Those in this situation often do not finish their schooling. The University of California and CSU should explore the possibility of granting tuition waivers to veteran students who have run out of G.I. Bill benefits, but are within 12 units of attaining their degrees. This program would allow more California veterans to achieve their educational and economic aspirations that otherwise would be deferred or denied.
6. We need increased state involvement in helping homeless veterans to find safe and adequate housing. The state-run veterans homes need support, too. It is a big disappointment to see homeless veterans.
I am honored to enjoy the support of many distinguished veterans* and I hope to serve their important needs and interests in the California Senate.