Gov. Abbott: Texas puts veterans first with array of new services

Yesterday, on Veterans Day, Americans came together to honor the brave men and women who have served on the front lines to defend our freedoms.

They have our everlasting gratitude, but they have earned so much more.

That is why yesterday I unveiled my Front of the Line veterans plan. The men and women who served on the front lines deserve to go to the front of the line and receive the best services Texas can provide.

That starts by creating greater economic opportunity for our veterans. They have the skills and the drive to succeed. Now, we must ensure they have access to the job opportunities that Texas has to offer.

Under my plan, local governments will have the option to provide property tax relief to businesses for each veteran who is newly hired for a full-time job. This will expand economic opportunity for our veterans while helping businesses maintain a quality workforce.

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And we cannot forget the spouses of our veterans who have also made tremendous sacrifices. Many of them have held jobs outside of the state of Texas and must go through a costly licensing process to get those same jobs here in Texas. I’m proposing that Texas waive licensing fees for military and veteran spouses for jobs they already qualify for.

In addition to creating more job opportunities for veterans, we should encourage more veterans to start their own business.

We can achieve this by establishing an option for local governments to give property tax relief to veteran entrepreneurs during their business’s first five years of operation. This program would spur economic growth and help many veterans realize their dream of owning a business.

However, some veterans need more than economic support.

Many are living on the streets or facing substance abuse and mental health problems. We must empower our veterans with the proper tools to overcome these challenges.

This will require more than government action. That is why I am challenging groups throughout Texas to support these veterans.

To incentivize this support, Texas would include giving local governments the option to provide property tax relief for entities that provide or pay for at least $5,000 in housing or substance abuse and mental health treatment services to veterans each year.

Finally, we must ensure that veterans in Texas have greater access to health care. That includes mental health services, especially for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. That is why I am calling for the reauthorization and full funding of the mental health program for Texas veterans at the Health and Human Services Commission. This will help veterans facing mental health issues get the necessary treatment.

One of the biggest health care challenges facing veterans is the backlog of claims at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

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Texas must lead the way in clearing the backlog and providing health care to veterans and their families. That’s why I am proposing that we increase current funding from $13.5 million to $20 million for the Texas Veterans Commission to combat the backlog at the VA.

We must also focus on expanding health care options for our veterans.

Under my plan, Texas will urge the federal government to allow Texas veterans to use VA funds for private insurance and private health care providers. This will allow our veterans the freedom to seek out the best health care for them and their families.

With my Front of the Line plan, I am pledging to fight for the men and women who fought for us. Together, we will ensure that our veterans receive the honor and support they’ve earned.

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