Boston is blessed to be home to over 16,000 veterans who have served their country proudly. As our elderly veterans age and new ones return home from conflicts abroad, we must honor them and their service. Veterans continue to be disproportionately impacted by mental health and substance use disorder, housing insecurity, and other challenges when it comes to reintegrating back into society. The median income of veteran households in Massachusetts is nearly $10,000 lower than the average citizen. Veterans, particularly those serving in the post-9/11 era, struggle with mental health and substance use disorders. Over 40% of post-9/11 veterans met screening criteria for binge drinking, nearly 25% for depression, and 35% for PTSD.
COVID has only further exacerbated the issues veterans face. Across the country, over half of post-9/11 veterans reported worsening mental health due to COVID-19 and over half had a mental health care visit canceled or postponed.
As captain in the Army Reserve who has deployed aboard and as an active supporter of the Boston veteran community, Jon will bring first hand knowledge to these issues. On Beacon Hill, he served on the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. During his time in the legislature, Jon voted to allocate $24 million to support veterans tax abatements, $10 million for homeless veteran services, $60 million for veteran discount prescription drug price programs, and $4 million for disabled veterans.
Jon knows that our veterans need our help now. He is running for mayor to make city hall a place that welcomes, celebrates, and supports our veterans. As mayor, Jon will:
- Ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder care for all veterans in need. Every veteran deserves access to healthcare and mental health services. Roughly 20% of post-9/11 veterans suffer from either major depression or PTSD and only half of returning veterans in need of mental health services actually receive them. Jon is committed to:
- Expanding and supporting partnerships between the VA Boston Healthcare System and local premier medical institutions to improve veteran-specific medical-legal partnerships.
- Identifying and connecting vulnerable veterans to mental health and community-based health care resources.
- Implementing specific outreach programs to connect veterans to resources treating military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, and other service-related health issues.
- Work toward a “No Wrong Door system” by creating a Veteran’s Liaison within the Office of Recovery Services specifically tasked with connecting veterans to recovery programs and accepting referrals from other city services and nonprofits.
- Eliminate veteran homelessness and support vulnerable veterans. Boston’s Way Home Program successfully housed over 1,000 homeless veterans. However, the most recent statistics from January 2019 show 917 still-homeless veterans across the state of Massachusetts. As a veteran, Jon understands the importance of ensuring we take care of our veterans and provide them the resources they need. As mayor, Jon will:
- Create a targeted grant program for homeless and vulnerable veterans by leveraging city resources and bringing in state and federal aid.
- Expand housing vouchers earmarked specifically for veterans to aid in finding affordable housing.
- Partner with nonprofit organizations to ensure warm handoff of veterans receiving services into housing opportunities.
- Attract, support, and retain skilled veterans to strengthen our veteran community.
- Create new resources for veterans with families to ensure homelessness prevention and access to affordable housing.
- Ensure specialized resources for our queer and trans veterans with an emphasis on healthcare access, housing, and employment opportunities.
- Provide better support for women veterans and veterans of color. Our women veterans and veterans of color are disproportionately impacted by barriers to services, healthcare, employment, and support. Nearly 40% of female service members and veterans report experiencing military sexual trauma, inducing lasting effects on many veterans who experience it. Jon believes that we need to leverage our existing resources to create more safe spaces for our women veterans and veterans of color. As mayor, Jon will:
- Encourage local veterans organizations and facilities to hire women veterans and veterans of color, and fund the expansion of programs supporting these veteran populations.
- Ensure culturally competent services are available for veterans across city-funded programs and incentivize diverse hiring initiatives to increase employment opportunities for our women veterans and veterans of color.
- Work with existing nonprofits and advocacy groups to create more effective support programs for women veterans and veterans of color.
- Increase and streamline veteran enrollment to social services programs. Boston has a rich ecosystem of veterans services and resources. Jon will work to increase accessibility by better coordination and amplification of city services. He will expand partnerships with VFW and American Legion posts as well as other veteran organizations to raise awareness about existing resources.
- Increase veteran employment, particularly in high-paying and specialized industries, and expand opportunities for job training. Many of our veterans chose to serve their country after high school or college, forgoing experience in the workplace. Jon believes that this service should be rewarded. Across the country, veterans are 45% more likely to start their own businesses, and veteran-owned businesses employ roughly 5.7 million people. Jon believes in harnessing that entrepreneurial spirit to benefit our entire city. As mayor, Jon will:
- Sponsor programs to educate veterans on small business and career development, financial planning, particularly targeted to newly-returning, young veterans.
- Partner with local colleges, nonprofits, and community organizations for job training initiatives for veterans.
- Encourage local employers to launch veterans hiring initiatives, particularly those for veterans of color and women veterans.
- Vigorously enforce employment discrimination against reservists and national guard members.
- Ensure veteran representation in city government and that city-granted contracts are awarded to veteran-owned businesses.
- Work with the state legislature to streamline workforce certifications for active duty veterans that have received specific training during deployments.
- Recognize veterans for their service to our community and country. Our veterans answered the call to serve their country. That service and sacrifice represents the best of what our country and city have to offer. We must celebrate, welcome, and support our veterans. As mayor, Jon will:
- Advocate to reinstate the ‘Veteran Status’ question on the United States census to provide more accurate data about our veterans.
- Expand Operation Thank a Veteran to a year-round initiative and host a volunteer drive to increase geographic reach.
- Specifically identify and publicly honor veterans who have served our city and our country.
- Ensure local parades and veterans commemoration events are fully funded and supported.
- Create a Veterans Advisory Council that will provide counsel, advice, and develop new programs to improve city hall’s impact within the veteran community.