As Veterans Day approaches, it's a time for our nation to come together and honor the men and women who have selflessly served in the United States armed forces. We should recognize their sacrifices, dedication and bravery.
November is also National Veterans and Military Families Month, a time to reflect on how we can better support the families who serve on the home front. As a state senator, military family advocate, spouse of a retired Army soldier and the mom of military kids, I've sponsored and supported legislation to provide essential assistance to our veterans and military families. My district is close to Fort Meade, the Naval Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, as well as other military installations, so I'm privileged to represent many veterans and military families. However, my commitment to these initiatives transcends mere policy; it is a deeply personal dedication to those who have served our nation and to their loved ones who stand steadfastly by their side and a reflection of my family’s own experiences.
One of the key bills I sponsored and passed last session provides more funding for the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund, which helps veterans and widows/widowers with non-emergency, temporary financial challenges. This increased funding for the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund ensures that our veterans and their surviving spouses receive the crucial support they deserve during difficult times. Another bill that I was proud to sponsor expanded child care options for military families and created more job opportunities for military spouses. This legislation not only provides more accessible child care solutions for military service members but also strengthens the economic stability of military families by promoting career growth for spouses, ultimately enhancing the well-being of our military community.
In the upcoming legislative session, I'm dedicated to sponsoring new bills aimed at enhancing support for veterans and their families. I've collaborated with Maryland's Veterans Affairs secretary, Anthony Woods, to develop these initiatives. One important change is renaming the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to the Maryland Department of Veterans and Military Families to better represent its mission. With this name change, we aim to foster a more comprehensive approach to supporting our veterans and military families who have contributed to our nation's defense.
I am also in the process of crafting a bill to address the pressing issue of veteran suicides. This issue is a critical concern, with statistics revealing that the suicide rate among veterans is significantly higher than the general population, as evident in the data showing that an estimated 17 veterans die by suicide each day in the United States. This alarming reality underscores the imperative for targeted mental health initiatives and support programs specifically designed to address the pressing issue of veteran suicide. The legislation I intend to advance will prioritize the need for local mental health commissions to specifically consider the unique challenges faced by veterans, with the overarching goal of reducing suicide rates within this community.
Additionally, many veterans, service members and military spouses have reported discrimination in employment and housing. Military spouses struggle to find employment, as some employers are reluctant to hire them due to their transient nature. Service members also face difficulties in renting homes due to concerns about abrupt departures. Therefore, I am sponsoring a bill to address these issues and reinforce the legal framework to protect military members and their families from housing and employment discrimination.
I'm also focused on tackling challenges for military spouses in professions that require a license. Many military spouses encounter obstacles when they move, needing to secure new licenses. I'm working on legislation to ease these licensing barriers to ultimately provide more career opportunities for military spouses in Maryland while also filling critical employment vacancies.
As a state senator and military spouse, I'm deeply honored to sponsor legislation that reflects our commitment to honoring the service of veterans and military families. As we commemorate Veterans Day and National Veterans and Military Families Month, let's not just pay tribute to our heroes but actively work to support them. The bills I've sponsored are part of a broader effort to ensure that veterans and military families get the recognition, assistance and support they need. Together, as a grateful nation, we can show our appreciation for those who have served and continue to serve our country.