America owes the greatest debt to the service men and women who have served in uniform, both in the U.S. and abroad.
My Uncle Lou Scheinbaum was a Medic on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Anyone who knows that battle knows the horror that those American heroes lived, in order to liberate Europe, and end the most terrible war and tyrant the world has ever known. Uncle Lou survived with the help and prayers of a local Priest and the lucky elephant figurine he gave my uncle to keep him safe.
He eventually returned from Normandy and the Nazi occupation, but he never slept a restful night for the rest of his life.
His home in Queens, New York, filled with hundreds and hundreds of lucky little elephant figures he collected since returning from Europe, reminds my family of the gift that is life, and the immeasurable debt that we all owe to our Veterans.
Throughout my career in government service, I have had the great honor to work with thousands of Veterans and their families, to provide the services and benefits that they and their families have earned and deserve.
During my service working in the United States Congress, I was honored to work closely with veterans and their families to assist them in obtaining the rightful benefits and recognition they deserved. For example, I facilitated the reopening of a case of a widow, whose husband was a POW in Germany during WWII, and was tortured and disabled before being denied benefits for decades by the VA. Never have I been more pleased than the day I was informed that I had helped her secure retroactive death benefits, and the full military recognition that her late husband deserved.
As a State Senator, and a member of the Veterans Caucus, my work has continued.
For returning warriors, and for far too many of Maryland’s 422,000 Veterans, returning to the civilian workforce is a challenge, if not downright impossible. That should never happen in America. That’s why I am so proud to have been honored by the United States Department of Defense for legislation I passed in the State Senate (SB245 and SB152) to create a hiring preference for veterans and their spouses consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
I'm also proud to have authored and co-sponsored more than a decade of legislation to improve the lives of Veterans and their families. These include:
- Surviving Spouse benefits, including the hiring preference, tax relief on retired pay/Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) income, and other issues.
- Increased tax subtraction on retired pay for our former members of the Uniformed Services. As a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, we were successful in approving such increases on two recent occasions. I am hopeful that we will be able to go further during the current year, with the goal of eliminating the tax entirely in the coming year. (SB312 and HB362)
- Legislation to develop a comprehensive plan to significantly reduce and prevent Veteran suicides in the State of Maryland. We have to do a lot more in our state in this critical area. (SB 911, a new item in 2018 based on Veterans Summit / Veterans Caucus initiative.)
- Legislation that permits our counties and other real estate taxing entities to give our Uniformed Service retirees over the age of 65 a 20% reduction in real property taxes for up to five years. That already is in effect in portions of District.
- Supporting HB 165 and HB 502, which both add "the widow or widower" of that retiree for the benefit. In other words, any surviving spouse over 65 and receiving SBP will benefit.
- Improved counseling and support services for Veterans in the Community Colleges of Maryland. I support SB 509, which requires these institutions to provide staff for advisement and establish a Veterans Resource Center, among other specific services.
- Supporting our currently-serving members of the Uniformed Services, and current Senate legislation to increase retirement income exemption for active duty personnel stationed overseas or serving at sea outside the USA. [SB 512]
In Congress, I'll continue my work to ensure that all Veterans and their loved ones receive the benefits and recognition to which they are entitled and deserve. After all, they earned it.