Veterans & Servicemember Policy
Service is not a one-way street. The men and women who have served our nation in the military deserve service from us in return. Colorado is home to over 400,000 veterans and boasts the sad distinction of having the seventh largest population of homeless veterans in the nation. While the federal government administers the majority of services to our veterans, there is work we can do right here in Colorado to make sure that our nation’s bravest are able to access the benefits they deserve.
During my time in Congress, I’ve had the distinct privilege to use my position to ensure that veterans have access to the benefits and services they are owed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. I’ve also been proud to introduce legislation that would provide veterans with job opportunities on federal lands and also to preserve the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division by designating Camp Hale, the Division’s original training ground, as a National Historic Landscape.
And one of the highest honors of my life was working to help found Patriot Boot Camp, an innovative nonprofit focused on providing veterans with the tools and resources to build skills and become entrepreneurs. Patriot Boot Camp has helped hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs find support and connections needed to shape their own future.
As a society, we need to do more than simply give thanks to those who return home from defending our freedom. We must take action. As governor, I will work to better commit state government’s resources toward improving the quality of life for veterans in Colorado, reduce the homeless population, and ensure that we pay our debt to the men and women of the armed services.
Make Government Work For Veterans:
The Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs is responsible for providing assistance to thousands of veterans, and facilitates $1.7 million in grant funding. Last year, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) declared their intention to launch a three-year pilot program to implement a Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) that will streamline data between Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, Medicaid, and the DMVA. I will ensure that we are aligning our departments and programs that serve veterans to deliver benefits more quickly, efficiently, and effectively, while also adding veterans status to the Colorado Benefits Management System. With our state budget as tight as it is, we need to make sure every dollar that veterans are owed gets to them quickly and that we are able to address any discrepancies in the benefits someone is owed. This system will make our state’s benefit system more accountable to veterans, save the state money in administrative costs, and reduce errors in delivery of critical dollars to serve those who have served us.
Protect Veterans And Servicemembers From Predatory Business Practices And Save Veterans Money:
Veterans and active-duty servicemembers are notoriously targeted by predatory lenders and scam artists. For example, we know that veterans use payday loans at a rate nearly four times the national average, and payday lenders target service members and their families at twice the rate they target civilians. And scammers pretending to be government officials or debt collectors frequently target both veterans and active-duty servicemembers because of their mobile lifestyles. I will direct the Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs to prioritize and implement greater consumer awareness and work with our county veterans service offices to provide veterans with access to resources on financial literacy training, scam awareness, and identity theft prevention. I will also work with the General Assembly to strengthen the Colorado Consumer Protection Act and make forced arbitration clauses — which are frequently found in consumer loan agreements but allowable under federal law — more fair and transparent, so that veterans and servicemembers can better defend their rights in a public court of law.
Promote Access To Alternative Treatments for PTSD:
While thousands of military veterans across the country have said that the use of marijuana has eased the often-debilitating symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), current federal law has limited research into cannabis’s therapeutic properties and has thus perpetuated opposition to legalization at the federal level. In 2015, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment initiated and supported a three-year study using marijuana to treat PTSD in 76 treatment-resistant veterans. The results of this study will help guide our policymaking here in the state and bolster advocacy efforts at the federal level. I will do everything I can to continue to support groundbreaking and controlled research into the use of cannabis to promote Coloradans’ wellbeing and for conditions impacting our state’s veterans.
Support Research And Reduction Of Death By Suicide:
The Department of Veteran Affairs recently found that veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide as civilians, and that Colorado’s veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than the national average. As governor, I will direct the Department of Public Health and Environment and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to examine death by suicide in Colorado, with a focus on how we can assist in improving services for veterans through data sharing, outreach, and coordination of benefit delivery. This will help to guide the state’s policy-making towards reducing suicide among veterans as well as expanding access to mental health care throughout Colorado.
End Homelessness And Housing Insecurity Among Colorado Veterans:
Despite a thriving economy and a large retired and active-duty military presence in the state, Colorado has one of the highest rates of homeless veterans in the nation. It should go without saying that we have a duty to shelter those who have put their lives on the line to protect our country and our families. In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper’s office held Colorado’s first-ever Veteran Housing Summit to hear from service providers and advocates for homeless Coloradans, state and federal agency staff, housing authorities, and business leaders about the challenges veterans face in finding secure housing. Through that convening, the Governor’s office partnered with the Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health to create the Coming Home Colorado Action Lab, which aimed to identify and house homeless veterans based on acuity of need, streamline housing application systems, and improve data reporting on housing vacancies and placements. With housing prices steadily on the rise, I will reconvene relevant state and national leaders to examine the success of the Action Lab, asses how the situation has changed in recent years, and develop a new plan to end veteran homelessness. I will also seek out innovative public-private partnerships with the business community to help train veterans in high-skilled jobs — particularly in our state’s booming tech sector — so that our nation’s veterans can equally benefit from Colorado’s thriving economy.
Help Military Spouses Serve In The Professions They Love:
Military spouses sacrifice their emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing on behalf of our nation. Sadly, their contributions to our nation’s security are not honored in the way they should be. When a military family is deployed to Colorado, the spouses of servicemembers deserve the peace of mind that they’ll be able to find employment, advance their career, and support their family. That’s why I support expanding our military spouse license reciprocity laws. Current law allows for license reciprocity for most professions and gives military spouses one year to get a Colorado license, and I support expanding that privilege to two years. But, important professions, such as engineers, optometrists, doctors, and those working in real estate, are exempted from this privilege. I believe that Colorado should remove these exemptions for military spouses who have licenses from states with similar or higher standards so that we preserve patient safety while ensuring that every military spouse deployed to Colorado can support their family in the career they love.