As governor, Ralph Northam will:
- Expand employment opportunities for transitioning servicemembers and veterans. As governor, Northam will create a Virginia-only Transition Assistance Program to encourage servicemembers to stay in Virginia as they transition to civilian life. He will set a goal of 50,000 new hires through the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program, expand the Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) program, and expand entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans, particularly in high-demand sectors such as IT and cybersecurity.
- Connect veterans with good healthcare and fight veteran suicides. As governor, Northam will work with Virginia’s federal delegation to urge more flexibility and faster access to healthcare for Virginia’s veterans through the VA Choice program. Ralph will encourage localities to create their own Veteran Community Health Councils to bring together the VA and community providers to facilitate coordination of care. He will also work to make Virginia a leader in veteran suicide prevention by improving access to quality mental health care, promoting awareness through training and screening.
- Expand support for women veterans and servicemembers. Virginia has one of the highest percentages of women veterans in the nation. The Northam administration will fund a women veterans coordinator at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) and work with the Veterans Health Administration to meet the unique needs of women veterans. Ralph will also create a Women Veterans Day to highlight Virginian women veterans and their accomplishments.
- Make higher education more accessible for veterans and servicemembers. Ralph will work to make college more affordable for active duty servicemembers and expand initiatives at Virginia’s community colleges to connect veterans with credits and degree paths. The Northam administration will also create a work group with representatives from Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities to study ways to expand access for veterans and active duty servicemembers to Virginia’s world-class public colleges and universities.
Ralph Northam’s veterans and military families agenda
Ralph graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1981, and after he attended Eastern Virginia Medical School he was assigned to active duty. He was stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston where he met his wife Pam. After training at Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins, Ralph was assigned to Landstuhl Medical Hospital, the largest hospital in the Army Medical Command outside of the United States, just down the road from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Landstuhl has long-served as the stop-over for serious casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.
After eight years active duty, Ralph was discharged as a Major and he and Pam returned home to Virginia, settling in Hampton Roads–a vital military area for the nation. He helped found a medical practice that’s grown and still treating patients today. And in 2007, he decided to run for the state senate to make Virginia a better place to live and raise a family.
As a state senator, Ralph passed a law making it easier for veterans to obtain their military service records, and he passed a law making it easier for servicemembers to vote when they’re stationed overseas, just as he and Pam were when Ralph was at Landstuhl. Ralph also fought for tax relief for guard and reservist families when they’re stationed overseas for three months or more.
As lieutenant governor, Ralph has kept fighting for Virginia’s military families. He’s been a strong supporter of the V3–Virginia Values Veterans–program, which helps connect veterans to good-paying jobs, and he worked with Governor McAuliffe to create a program to connect former military medics and corpsmen to private sector healthcare jobs. Ralph’s also a big supporter of Virginia’s push to end veterans homelessness.
Virginia is proud to have one of the fastest growing veteran populations of any state in the nation. It’s not hard to see why so many veterans choose to call Virginia their home. In Virginia, servicemembers and veterans can obtain a quality, affordable education, high-paying jobs, and live in welcoming communities that value and respect their service.
As a veteran himself, Ralph understands the many strengths that veterans bring to the workforce and their communities—a strong sense of duty and discipline, commitment to the mission, excellent teamwork, and battle-tested leadership. As governor, Northam will continue to leverage veterans’ strengths by fast-tracking their skills into immediate jobs—especially in health care, IT, and cybersecurity, and will fight to make it easier for veteran entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. He’ll also work to make higher education more accessible and flexible by awarding more academic credit for military experience.
At the same time, a Northam administration will offer support to veterans and their families who have sacrificed for our nation:
- He will ensure no veteran goes without a roof over his or her head. By committing to best practices and federal, state, and local partnerships, Virginia became the first state to functionally end veteran homelessness. Northam will sustain and grow these vital linkages to keep veteran homelessness at bay.
- Working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and state and community providers, Northam will seek sensible reform of the Choice program and will promote innovative solutions, such as public-private partnerships, that improve timely access to quality health care for veterans, especially in high-growth areas in Hampton Roads. He will also leverage Virginia’s strengths in telehealth and digital health to facilitate convenient access to care for veterans.
- Northam will prioritize hiring of military spouses and ensure military children are provided the best opportunities for educational achievement and advancement.
Transitioning servicemembers and employing veterans
Ralph understands the challenges of reentering civilian life firsthand. After eight years of active duty, Ralph returned home to Virginia, and he and Pam decided to live in the Hampton Roads area—a vital military hub for the nation. Ralph decided to put his experience in the military treating wounded soldiers to work in Virginia—he helped start a medical practice to treat kids and ensure they get a healthy start to life.
Ralph’s medical training from the Army helped connect him and guide him into civilian sector employment, ultimately helping him provide for his family and allowing him to volunteer as a medical director at a pediatric hospice. That’s why connecting veterans to good-paying jobs is personal for him, and why he’s fought to expand those opportunities as a public servant.
Encourage servicemembers to stay in Virginia as they transition to civilian life
Ralph learned firsthand that transitioning out of the military can be overwhelming. It is hard to know where to go and what to do next, let alone learn how to adapt to the civilian world. Virginia ranks 7th among all states in total population of veterans (783,000 in 2015) and by 2027, Virginia will rank 5th in veteran population. Virginia also ranks 4th in total population of younger veterans (age 49 and under). With so many servicemembers transitioning out of the military from installations right here in Virginia, we should be doing everything we can to make sure that these members and their families stay in Virginia when they transition to civilian life.
In order to do this, it is important to have Virginia-specific resources available for them. Ralph will create a one-day Virginia-only Transition Assistance Program for transitioning servicemembers. This program will be in addition to the standard transition that servicemembers go through and will set Virginia apart from it peers, as members and their families will have a one-stop opportunity to learn and get connected with an array of services offered through Virginia’s agencies and stakeholders, including employment information, housing programs, and education resources. We have a lot to be proud of and to offer our transitioning servicemembers and their families, and this Virginia-only Transition Assistance Program will provide the venue for us to showcase why Virginia should be where they set down roots upon returning to civilian life.
Set goal of 50,000 hires for the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program
Under Governor McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor Northam, the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Program, which teaches employers how to implement nationally-recognized best practices to recruit, hire, and retain highly-skilled veterans, has grown tremendously. As an Army veteran, Ralph understands the value veterans bring to the workforce. Continuing the success of V3 will be a top priority in the Northam administration, and he will give the program the goal of 50,000 veterans hired by the end of his administration.
Expand Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) program
With the establishment of the Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) program in 2016, Virginia became the first state in the nation to create a unique bridge to employment for former medics and corpsmen to work in the commonwealth’s health systems, even if they do not have a civilian license or credential. As a doctor in the Army and in the civilian world, Ralph particularly understands the value of this program and the skill sets these veterans possess that can meet the needs of Virginia’s health systems. That’s why he strongly supported legislation to create the MMAC program. Ralph will make this pilot program permanent as governor and will add additional resources to ensure that more health systems get on board and more veterans are hired. He will give the MMAC team a goal of 300 veterans hired by end of his administration.
Expand technology and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans
Veterans obtain leadership skills in the military that can take them anywhere. Upon exiting the service, many would like to take their talents and start their own businesses instead of working for another employer, particularly in high-demand sectors such as IT and cybersecurity. The Northam administration will develop policies to assist veterans who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs and those who are already business owners, as well as support ways to provide entrepreneurship support services for veterans, such as incubators, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), and Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) under the Small Business Administration.
Additionally, we must focus our attention within veterans employment to the thousands of high-paying jobs available right now in the technology sector here in Virginia. The Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Veterans Employment Initiative is an excellent example of the technology, business, education, and public sectors working together to employ veterans, and the state should do all that it can to support NVTC’s model being replicated throughout Virginia’s other technology councils.
Continue fighting veteran homelessness and set employment goals for permanently-housed veterans
The McAuliffe-Northam administration signed on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness and partnered with federal, state, local, private, and non-profit partners to make Virginia the first state in the nation to functionally end veterans homelessness. Ralph will continue these partnerships and ensure that those who have worn the cloth of this country do not have to fight for roofs over their heads. His administration will take things a step further and set employment goals for the veterans that are permanently housed.
Healthcare for veterans and servicemembers
Ralph treated veterans through the VA and is appalled at the national scandal in the federal department. He knows firsthand how important it is for reform of the VA system to be successful. Ralph wants to see the VA truly work for veterans, meeting their needs whenever and wherever they are.
- In 2014, as part of the Governor’s Summit on Veterans Health Care, Ralph was involved early on in trying to shape the newly created Choice program in Virginia so that veterans could get in faster to see providers in their communities, without having to travel for hours or wait for months for an appointment at the VA. Unfortunately, the Choice program, with its burdensome restrictions and “30 day/40 mile” rules did not solve the access problem for Virginia veterans but just presented new challenges and red tape. With Congress preparing to pass the next version of the Choice program, “Choice 2.0,” Ralph will use his knowledge of what works and what didn’t on the frontlines to push for more flexibility and faster access for veterans. The new Choice program should make it easier, not harder, for veterans to seek care in the community if VA can’t meet their needs or see them timely.
- In addition to Choice program reform, Ralph will seek creative ways to alleviate gaps in care for veterans across Virginia. Under McAuliffe and Northam, for example, two urgently needed veterans care centers in Fauquier County and Virginia Beach were constructed using state resources to expand capacity for long-term care. Northam will also leverage the promise of telehealth to provide fast, convenient access for veterans, especially those in rural parts of the commonwealth.
- Ralph will work to spark innovative partnerships between academic centers and the VA to grow a pipeline of providers who are specially trained to care for the military and veterans. It is especially important that providers know how to care for the unique needs of women veterans.
- Virginia one of the highest percentages of veterans who are women in the nation, and the Northam administration will allocate funding for a women veterans coordinator at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS). The Northam administration will work with the Veterans Health Administration to meet the unique health care challenges of female veterans and will work with VA hospitals and community providers to make sure they are properly identifying and recognizing women veterans and providing them with the quality care they have earned or referring them to others who can. The Northam administration will also promote awareness and collaboration among state agencies, like the Virginia Department of Health, and partnerships with private sector and non-profit healthcare entities around these veterans’ healthcare needs.
- Ralph knows that veterans often use more than one provider and that coordination of care is a challenge leading to waste and duplication of care. Ralph will ask localities to create their own veteran community health councils to bring together the VA and community providers and facilitate coordination of care and secure health information sharing for veterans in those communities.
- It is a tragedy that in recent conflicts, more military personnel have died by suicide than in combat. Every day, another 20 veterans take their lives by suicide in the US. Ralph will make Virginia a leader in veteran suicide prevention by improving access to quality mental healthcare, promoting greater awareness of the signs of suicide risk through training and screening, addressing the opioid crisis head on, expanding peer support programs, leveraging data analytics, and building community-based partnerships.
Educational opportunities for veterans and servicemembers
Continuing education is a priority of many veterans and servicemembers. Veterans and servicemembers often attend for-profit institutions, but Ralph would like more to take advantage of the public educational opportunities here in the commonwealth. The Northam administration will be committed to making Virginia’s higher education institutions more accessible for our veterans and servicemembers.
Make college more affordable for active-duty servicemembers
Recognizing that military tuition assistance does not cover fees and is often not enough to cover tuition, the Northam administration will explore all strategies to reduce this burden. Ralph is committed to making Virginia’s colleges and universities more affordable for servicemembers, including junior enlisted.
Expand initiatives at community colleges to connect veterans with credits
Under the McAuliffe-Northam administration, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) developed a policy to award academic credit for prior military training. VCCS also began working on a portal that will map and evaluate the credits. The Northam administration will launch this veterans portal and ensure that more military courses are mapped to credits and degree paths at community colleges.
Expand veteran access to four-year higher education institutions
Since Virginia’s community colleges fall under one system, it is easier to create a more uniform policy around awarding academic credit for military training and education than the four-year institutions, which have individualized systems. The Northam administration will create a work group with representatives from Virginia’s four-year institutions to make recommendations and share best practices that will result in more veterans and active duty military attending Virginia’s public colleges and universities.
Women veterans outreach
Virginia has one of the highest percentages of female veterans in the nation. Ralph served alongside women in the Army, and he understands that the commonwealth must do more to meet the needs of this population.
In addition to funding a women veterans coordinator at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS), the Northam administration will create a Women Veterans Day to highlight Virginia’s women veterans and their accomplishments. This event will kick-off a greater campaign of the Northam administration to increase initiatives for the women in Virginia who have worn the cloth of this country.
The families of active duty military are just as important, if not more, than the servicemembers themselves. Virginia needs to look out for its military families, just as it does servicemembers. The Department of Defense puts out an annual list of their top 10 key issues for military families. This will serve as the Northam administration’s guiding star as it seeks to expand opportunities for Virginia’s military families.
Expand employment opportunities for military spouses
Military spouses often face unique obstacles to good employment. The Northam administration will work to ease entry of military spouses into employment in their communities by streamlining professional licensing requirements and working to create hiring efforts with Virginia’s state agencies.
Help military families and their children transition to new bases and new communities
Having a parent in the military and constantly moving is difficult on school-aged children. Under the McAuliffe-Northam administration, the Virginia Department of Education established a military child coordinator position and created a means to identify military-connected children in schools to ensure they have proper resources and support, and a Northam administration will continue this support of our military children.
An issue that persists amongst military families and schooling is residency. Families who live in military housing would like to be able to choose the schools that their children attend. Ralph will work with local school districts in resolving the issues that are impacting military families and preventing seamless transitions to a new base and community.