COLUMNS

From the Governor with Pete Ricketts

Nebraska City News-Press

Honoring and supporting our veterans

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” – President John F. Kennedy

America is the greatest country in the world because our Constitution recognizes God-given human rights and protects individual liberties.  Our republic has endured for nearly two-and-a-half centuries due to the blood, sweat, and sacrifice of our military veterans.  

Veterans Day is an opportunity for Nebraskans to thank the veterans who’ve heeded the call of duty to protect our way of life.  There are around 127,000 veterans living in Nebraska.  They’ve served America in every corner of the globe.

Our goal is to make Nebraska the best state in America for our veterans and military families.  Just this year, we’ve made major strides toward this goal.  On May 25, I signed Legislative Bill (LB) 387 into law.  

It exempts 100 percent of military retirement benefits from state income taxation.  This bill is a big deal for our workforce.  Veterans can retire as early as age 38.  At this age, they’re looking to contribute the skills they’ve gained in a second career or through volunteer work.  We want to create a tax-friendly environment so these veterans choose Nebraska as their home.

While we’ve created a more competitive tax structure to recruit and retain veterans, the state has also launched the SkillBridge program to smooth the transition from military service to civilian employment.  

Overseen by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, SkillBridge connects service members in their last 180 days of military service with Nebraska businesses.  This allows veterans to explore post-military career opportunities and gives Nebraska employers the inside track to hiring great leaders.

The state has also stepped up to help military spouses find job opportunities.  Military families make tremendous sacrifices in service to our country, including having to move 2-3 times more often than civilian families.  

This year, I worked with the Unicameral to pass legislation making it quicker and easier for military spouses to gain certification to teach after moving to Nebraska.  

This adds to the previous work we’ve done to help them gain licenses/permits to work in Nebraska as realtors, nurses, or in occupations regulated by the Uniform Credentialing Act.

Additionally, the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services launched the Military Spouse Transition Program in April as part of the state’s ongoing effort to become a leading employer for military families.  

The initiative helps military spouses moving to Nebraska find jobs in state government.  The program delivers career services, such as resume building, and helps military spouses network with state agencies.

State senators also took action in 2020 and 2021 to increase the educational benefits available to our soldiers and airmen.  LB 450, which took effect Jan. 1, expands the tuition assistance available to members of the National Guard.  The bill increases the tuition credit for a baccalaureate degree from 75 percent of resident tuition to 100 percent of resident tuition.  The bill also creates a tuition credit of 50 percent of resident tuition for graduate and professional degrees.

LB 4, which I signed into law this March, raises the undergraduate tuition credit from 50 percent to 75 percent for reservists serving in units based in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs (NDVA) is continuously looking to enhance veterans’ benefits and make it easier to access them.  In 2020, NDVA upgraded the veterans.nebraska.gov website.  It now has a Nebraska Veterans’ Gateway to Employment to assist veterans searching for a

job or starting a business.  

The redesigned website also features a Benefits Expert tool to help users quickly determine exactly which benefits they need and are eligible to receive.  Additionally, veterans can use the website’s live chat to talk to an accredited state service officer.  The chat provides the same assistance available during an in-person visit.  The live chat helped protect veterans during the pandemic, allowing them to get assistance without having to risk exposure to the virus.  

This August, the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals honored NDVA with a dotCOMM Gold Award in recognition of its website enhancements.  Winning a dotCOMM award signifies that NDVA’s digital work ranks among the best of any state government.

In 2020, Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation among veterans.  Last November, SmartAsset ranked us  No. 7 in the nation for veterans.  While that’s a strong ranking, we’re determined to climb all the way to the top spot!

If you have ideas for how Nebraska can better support military families and veterans, please share them with me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244.

May God bless our military families, may God bless our veterans, and may God continue to bless the great state of Nebraska!

Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Govenor