Jenniffer González Seeks Justice for Puerto Rican Veterans
SAN JUAN — New Progressive Party (NPP) resident commissioner candidate Sen. Jenniffer González presented Sunday a package of ten proposals to defend equal treatment for Puerto Rican veterans.
The Puerto Rican Republican Party president presented her proposals among groups of veterans and military officers, including Tricare Prime, Casa Fischer, State Veterans Home, Boots for Food, Troops to Teachers, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Reintegration in Society, concerning healthcare services, and a plan to ise the position of resident commissioner as an advocate for veterans for the revision of compensations for veterans in Puerto Rico.
“Thousands of men and women from Puerto Rico have sacrificed to defend us and to benefit from democracy, however, the gratitude from the State isn’t reciprocal if the veterans live in our territory. This has to change. In my work agenda as commissioner it is a priority for our military and veterans to be treated equally as those residing in the mainland,” indicated González.
González explained there are 93,000 registered veterans in Puerto Rico, but the number may be higher when taking inconsideration veterans that have never requested services from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). The NPP legislator informed that more than 211,900 men and women on the island have participated in military conflicts.
“Although more than 200,000 Puerto Rican men and women have served in the U.S. Armed Forces preserving the nation’s security, as well as fighting for democracy and liberty around the world, they don’t receive equal treatment nor the same benefits as veterans residing in the 50 states. They are a great priority within my agenda as commissioner,” she affirmed.
The pro-statehood senator said there are 15,450 active military pensioners under 65 years old residing on the island that are eligible for the Tricare Prime program, but they don’t qualify because Puerto Rico is considered an overseas territory. This is an executive procedure -not legal-, that the resident commissioner candidate has in agenda to work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) so the island isn’t considered as such.
Puerto Rican veterans “don’t receive equal treatment
nor the same benefits as veterans residing in the 50 states”
González explained Casa Fisher’s project will provide temporary housing for families of veterans and active members of the Armed Forces that are receiving medical treatment in a veterans’ hospital or a military medical center, or who must travel long distances to receive their treatment.
“I will work in collaboration with veterans’ associations, the VA Caribbean Healthcare System and the Puerto Rico Public Advocate of Veteran Affairs to identify necessary funds and for Casa Fisher to finally be constructed in the premises that had already been identified, and prevent the loss of $3 million assigned by the Foundation,” asserted González.
Likewise, the representative said it is necessary to establish another State Veterans Home, an adult care center, for disabled or elderly veterans, since the home currently doesn’t offer all the services provided in the states.
The NPP spokeswoman in the House of Representatives will vouch to build another State Veterans’ Home in the northern area of the island specialized in caring for bedridden veterans and those suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, as well as improving conditions in Juana Díaz’s Casa del Veterano (Veteran’s Home).
“The mayor of Arecibo told us today there is land available in that zone to build the State Veterans’ Home and prevent elderly veterans from traveling to Juana Díaz to receive services,” she commented.
Meanwhile, the EITC is a refund—a mechanism to stimulate employment and discourage dependance on welfare state, providing economic relief to families with low or moderate income.
“Even though they risked their lives for democracy, liberty and the safety of the nation, our soldiers are doubly disadvantaged because they are obliged to pay contributions on federal and state-level incomes, without benefitting from credit because it isn’t available to residents on the island,” she denounced.
The Republican senator added: “Our soldiers and veterans are moving to the States and Puerto Rico loses because that money is going elsewhere and our economy is affected. We have to make that money stay here. We are talking about $525 million annually.”
In addition, the ‘Troops to Teachers’ program was created with the purpose of providing assistance to military personnel interested in teaching. It also contributes by supplying necessities for teachers in difficult hiring areas, such as sciences, mathematics, and special education.
González denounced that during the past NPP administration, the Education Department began conversations with the DoD to establish the program in Puerto Rico. Nonetheless, the initiative was never completed due to the change in administration.
Similarly, through the ‘Boots for Food’ initiative, the resident commissioner candidate proposed to establish direct and active contact with the USDA Agricultural Military Link and the Farm Bureau Federation to increase the availability of help programs for veterans to be immersed in agriculture, and the creation of a veterans-farmers alliance in Puerto Rico, following the Farm-Veteran Coalition.
González insisted that, if elected as resident commissioner, she will aim to supply the need for specialized doctors in the veterans’ hospital, such as: neurosurgeons, orthopedics, urologists, among others. However, she didn’t specify how she intends to do so, nor how to maintain operations in Fort Buchanan in support to the Reserve, National Guard and veterans, including the Commissary and PX, among other initiatives.