JACKSONVILLE /Florida Newswire/ -â€“ Governor Charlie Crist today called upon United States Senators Bill Nelson and George LeMieux to support federal legislation that assists caregivers of seriously injured veterans, improves health care provided to veterans residing in rural areas, and makes other enhancements and expansions to Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. The Governor made the appeal while visiting troops and touring facilities at the Florida National Guard Headquarters in St. Augustine and the Wounded Warrior Projectâ€™s TRACK Center in Jacksonville.
â€œAs we near Veterans Day, it is important to remember the generations of brave servicemen and women who have defended the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy every day as Americans,â€ said Governor Crist. â€œWe are forever indebted to our Armed Forces and it is important that we express our gratitude by ensuring they have the best medical care and support possible.â€
The Caregiver and Veterans Health Services Act of 2009 will ensure that the families and spouses of wounded veterans have the support they need to care for their loved ones. The legislation provides assistance in the form of mental health counseling, training, modest financial support, and health care coverage. Governor Crist emphasized that the increased assistance is necessary because of the recent medical breakthroughs that have lowered the number of combat deaths in modern warfare, yet increase the number of survivors with permanent injuries who require long-term care.
In his remarks at the Florida National Guard Headquarters, Governor Crist expressed his gratitude to the hundreds of guardsmen currently serving overseas, as well as those who have recently returned from combat. This month, 432 troops with the 146th Signal Battalion out of Pensacola and Jacksonville returned from Iraq. The Governor also paid tribute to the 2,450 Florida guardsmen in the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team who in January will be deployed to Iraq for one year.
Earlier this year, Governor Crist signed House Joint Resolution 833, Homestead Ad Valorem Tax Credit for Deployed Military. The resolution proposes a Constitutional amendment that would exempt men and women deployed on active duty overseas from property tax on homesteaded property. It would allow an additional exemption based on the length of the overseas deployment. This initiative will go before voters in November 2010. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the tax exemption would become effective January 1, 2011.
About the Wounded Warrior Projectâ€™s TRACK Center
The Wounded Warrior Projectâ€™s TRACK Center is the first education center in the nation designed specifically for wounded warriors. TRACK students reside in Jacksonville for a 12-month holistic training experience for the mind, body and spirit. The first half of the program is primarily classroom-based, with support services including mental health counseling, performance training, and life skills classes. Classes are provided through the Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ), and credit can be applied toward a bachelorâ€™s or associateâ€™s degree, or vocational certificate. The second half of the program consists of an employment internship with local employers in the areas of information technology, general business, logistics, and more.