MONTANA — Amid ongoing controversy over comments the nation’s Commander in Chief made calling Americans who died in war “suckers” and “losers,” and Rep. Greg Gianforte’s refusal to denounce the comments, Lt. Gov. and Democratic candidate for governor Mike Cooney today released his plan to make sure our nation’s heroes get the care and benefits they have earned. Cooney and his running mate Casey Schreiner were joined by U.S. Navy veteran Spencer Keck and Helena-area military spouse April Walsh.
“The women and men who serve in uniform put their lives on the line every day to defend us and our freedom, and it is our job to honor that sacrifice by ensuring service members, their families, and veterans are taken care of,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. “As your next governor, I will make it my mission to stand up for Montana’s military families, and make sure they get the care and respect they deserve.”
Montana has one of the highest per-capita veteran rates in the nation – our state is home to nearly 100,000 veterans, or roughly 1-in-10 Montanans. 72 percent of Montana’s veterans live in rural communities across our state.
“As a Navy veteran, I know firsthand the challenges that service members, veterans, and military families face on a daily basis, and I know Mike Cooney has the vision and ability to make a real difference in our lives,” said HM1 (FMF/SW) E. Spencer Keck, USN ret. “From improving access to mental health care and suicide prevention efforts to creating and expanding job and educational opportunities, I know Mike Cooney will be a steadfast advocate for our men and women in uniform as well as their families.”
“My life has been touched in many ways by military service – both my grandfathers were veterans and as a State Representative I represent Malmstrom Air Force Base,” said Casey Schreiner, Cooney’s running mate. “I’ve seen firsthand the contributions military families provide to our communities and our state, as well as to our country. I look forward to working with Mike to make sure our nation’s heroes get the care and benefits they have earned.”
SUPPORTING AMERICA’S HEROES
HEALTH CARE AND SUICIDE PREVENTION
Increased Investment in Suicide Prevention
Renew Gov. Bullock’s Executive Order to allow Montana veterans to access the State Employee Assistance Program and increase investments in suicide prevention efforts through Department of Public Health and Human Services targeted at military service members and veterans.
Veteran Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Council
Convene a Veteran Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Council staffed with state, federal, local, and Tribal stakeholders including mental health experts, veteran service organizations, and the Montana National Guard to identify and implement meaningful solutions to this crisis.
Rural Broadband and Telemedicine
Previously proposed plans to increase broadband connectivity across Montana, including rural Montana, where up to three-quarters of Montana’s veteran population resides, who increasingly rely on telemedicine services to receive health care treatment.
Preserve and Protect Medicaid Expansion
Preserve and protect Montana’s Medicaid Expansion, which has helped as many as 7,000 Montana veterans gain access to quality, affordable health care through the HELP Act.
JOBS, EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITY
Veterans Administration (VA) Education Benefit Protections
Work with the Montana University System, the Office of Public Instruction and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to strengthen authorization and acceptance of VA education benefits for curriculum and programs, including services and benefits.
National Guard Activation to State Active Duty
Through Executive Order create a council to study and address wage and benefit losses from their civilian job when ordered to State Active Duty to provide our National Guard members equal protections as provided while serving on Federal Active Duty.
Apprenticeship Tax Credit for Veterans and Military Technical Training and Certification
Increase the apprenticeship tax credit to $1,500 for veterans ($1,000 for non-veterans) to incentivize employers to create good-paying apprenticeship jobs and develop an initiative to formalize military skills and training as equivalent to applicable Montana vocations and workforce development.
Streamline Occupational Licensing Reciprocity for Military Family Members
Streamline Occupational Licensing reciprocity for military family members who have secured professional licenses in previous states.
Support Elementary and Secondary School Transition
Amend MCA 20-1-230, the “Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children” to include children of National Guard or Reserve members.
Support Military Family Members Entering the Workforce
Ensure the State of Montana works with active duty members of the National Guard serving at Malmstrom and all across the state to support family members who want to enter the workforce by providing transition assistance through the Department of Labor & Industry.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Support Veteran Outreach to Ensure Services Are Being Delivered
Adequately fund Regional Veterans Service Offices and encourage closer partnerships with non-governmental veteran service organizations to provide Montana veterans the opportunity to receive the federal benefits they have earned.
Donation of Hunting Licenses to Disabled Veterans
Compile and make available to hunting license donors a list of approved and qualified organizations by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, including programs for disabled veterans, from which to choose their donation.
The Supporting America’s Heroes plan includes policies from Attorney General Tim Fox’s Veterans Strategy Paper with permission. Veterans issues are not partisan issues, and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Casey Schreiner are committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to support and protect Montana’s military service members and their families.