There’s an irony in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to knock the stuffing out of state spending on veterans despite 2.1 million of them living in California and another 30,000 arriving yearly.
Ironic because the eternally underfunded California Department of Veterans Affairs had just won funding support under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sink money behind its largely un-backed promise of helping veterans.
Towards the end of his second term, Schwarzenegger proposed increased spending on Operation Welcome Home – the centerpiece of the state’s reintegration effort — from $1.11 million to $8.4 million.†
Schwarzenegger called the funding critical. It would allow County Veteran Service Offices in San Diego and across the state to offer vets greater help with such things as employment, education, housing, health care, family support and federal benefits.
Schwarzenegger stopped in San Diego last summer to unveil the program, the state’s answer to successfully transitioning combat veterans back to civilian life.
“Operation Welcome Home is groundbreaking,” Schwarzenegger told his audience aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego Harbor one brilliant June day.
“Every year 30,000 veterans come back to California. … We want them to move smoothly from the battlefront to the home front,” he said. “We are doing more than thanking them. We are showing them our gratitude through our actions.”
Why did Schwarzenegger make the announcement here?
Because San Diego County and its 235,000 veterans out of a population of 3 million residents represent the highest concentration of former service members any where in the United States.
The county is also home to the largest Iraq and Afghanistan combat vet population in the entire country.
It should be noted that Los Angeles County has the nation’s largest vet population at 334,000 veterans, but has a smaller concentration because of its 9.8 million population.
The good care and feeding of our veterans might be a quaint pursuit in some parts of the state, but it’s downright vital in San Diego County, as much civic responsibility as economic necessity.
Then came Brown.
As the son of a governor and the product of Cal Berkley and Yale Law School, Brown never served a day of military service. I don’t begrudge him that. He’s yet another politician perfectly willing to salute the flag during photo ops and then short-fund those who actually served.
But his proposal of cutting vet programs $10 million makes no sense — or cents — even in a state facing a $28 billion budget deficit.
A spokesman for the CDVA insists that Brown is indeed sensitive to the struggles of veterans, that the proposed budget is just that – proposed – and outreach will continue with increased reliance on technology should “the difficult budget” go through.
But relying on a phone app for life-changing information seems like a poor second choice to talking to a trained advocate.††
As an aside, California taxpayers spend $10 billion with a ‘b’ a year on prisons and the state can’t find a measly $10 million for veterans?
In other words, the state has bottomless money to lock veterans up, but nothing to spend helping them move on as productive members of society.
This must be such a proud moment for Brown. ††
Consider these figures I’ve never heard contested: †
– Since 1995, County Veterans Service Officers have assisted more than 1.3 million California veterans and dependents, garnering over $2.7 billion in federal money.
– Through the efforts of CVSOs, California’s veterans received more than $257 million in new or increased benefits from the federal government in fiscal year 2008-09.
– Every dollar that the state spends on CVSOs translates into a return of almost $100 in federal veterans benefits.†††
So spending money on veterans actually produces revenue.
A state audit in 2009 found that California trailed other states with large veteran populations, such as Texas and Florida, when it comes to its former service members receiving federal benefits.
The governor’s misguided spending priorities will only make this disparity greater while creating in San Diego County a mess he doesn’t have to clean up but is wholly responsible for.†
Welcome home, veterans. For those expecting Operation Welcome Home, we have something else. It’s called Operation Brown Out. Here’s the line to pick up your begging cups and a candle to light your own way. ††
Those interested can contact Brown’s office by writing him at:
Gov. Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814. Or call him at: (916) 445-2841.
Find his email at: http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php
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