5 easy things we could do for our military & veterans

(c) Veterans Affairs Canada

As debate continues across Canada regarding how our government treats our military veterans,
Here are five ideas:

1.  Veterans’ First Hiring Policy.

Governments at all levels should commit to preferential hiring for veterans when all other factors are equal.  Many already have preferential practices to address gender imbalances or advance minority hiring.   Being a veteran who voluntarily gave up his or her right to security of the person, who may have fought on our behalf and/or been wounded, should be at least as important as who your parents were.

A veterans-first hiring policy in government would set an example for industry that demonstrates veterans are valuable hires.  Veterans have received the best leadership and management training available anywhere – there is no private sector training program that compares.  This would cost governments absolutely nothing.

These five simple things won’t solve the big challenges our veterans face every day.  But, they sure would show veterans we care.

2.  Veterans Procurement Consideration. 

Many governments have procurement programs that give some preferential consideration to minority-owned businesses, or businesses that employ minorities.  The same preference should be extended to businesses that are owned by, or employ veterans.  Again, this would cost nothing.

3.  No Pay and Display for Veterans.

Toronto City Council has, in the past, considered offering free parking to veterans.  However, the initiative was voted down at committee level because Councillors were unsure what it would cost or how complicated it would be to implement and administer.  There is an easier way to do this, if councils choose to pursue this policy.

Make it easy.  Every province issues distinctive “Veteran” licence plates to vehicles owned by veterans.  The provinces rely on the Royal Canadian Legion to verify an applicant’s veteran status by checking service records.  If veteran status is confirmed by the Legtion, the province will issue a veteran plate.  Cities could simply exempt vehicles bearing veteran plates from paying for parking when legally parked in a coin-metered or “pay and display” parking space.

There would be no exemption for veterans parked illegally or in “no-parking/stopping” areas or during “no-parking/stopping” hours.  Likewise, there would be no fee avoidance in municipally-owned automated entry/exit parking lots.  There would be a minor loss of revenue to the city collecting parking fees.

4.  Transform Sick Days into Paid Military Leave Days for Reservists.

Most government employees are granted a certain number of sick days each year, which many use regardless of their health.  Many government employees are also members of Canada’s reserve forces.  Reservists are an increasingly integral component in Canada’s Forcces, often making up a large percentage of operational deployments.  In the mid 1990’s reservists formed over 50% of some units deployed to operations in the Balkans.  They have played an important role in every deployment to Afghanistan.

Reservists often have difficulty getting time off for military training.  Some progressive employers grant additional leave for military training.  Some even “top up” the reservist’s military pay so they’re not out of pocket for maintaining their military readiness.  One inexpensive way for governments to help out, would be to allow their employees to use their sick days for military leave.  Reserve units would be happy to provide an official letter to the employee’s manager confirming the reservist was on military duties on those leave days.  This would cost government little or nothing, encourage reserve service, and help reservists advance and maintain their military skills.

5.  Free transit for on-duty military & reservists.  

Military pay is good, but not great.  For part-time reservists, though, it’s not much at all – often not more than the cost of parking in the city, so many reservists, and regulars working in urban locations, use transit.  Part-time reservists generally attend military training one evening a week and one day per weekend – or one weekend per month.

For a minimal loss of revenue, public transit operators could provide free transit rides to military personnel who are (a) in uniform and (b) present valid military ID to the operator.  There aren’t many of them, so the cost would be small.  Requiring ID would prevent non-military personnel from pretending to be military.   Requiring service members to be in uniform, would ensure they’re on duty at the time.

As a side benefit, the presence of more uniformed personnel may help other transit riders feel more secure.

These five simple things won’t solve the big challenges our veterans face every day.  But, they sure would show veterans we care, that they’ve earned our respect and a few, inexpensive perks.