By Jessica Nolte
Capital News Service for Culpeper Times
RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe celebrated Monday the announcement of Virginia Military Medics and Corpsmen Program’s first hire, Jeffery Filler.
The Virginia MMAC program is the first of its kind in the nation. The program employs veterans, giving them the opportunity to utilize their medical training acquired during active duty service.
“This is important, this is the next step when we talk about what we need to do to make Virginia the most veteran friendly state in American,” McAuliffe said.
This is not a partisan issue, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said. The bill creating Virginia MMAC was introduced by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, and passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate during the 2016 General Assembly session.
This is part of a larger effort to make Virginia a veteran- and military-friendly state.
Northam cited previous efforts including the Virginia Values Veterans Program, which aims to train employers on how to recruit, hire and retain veterans.
Virginia’s full-time veteran employment rate is 87.2 percent – the highest in the nation, state officials said. Virginia is also first in veteran labor growth rate, according to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This is a new, innovative pathway, and this is just the beginning,” McAuliffe said.
Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is the first health care system to hire a veteran through the program.
“We understand the value veterans bring to the healthcare field, and we’re very proud to be a part of that,” said Dr. Alton Stocks, former interim CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and a former U.S. Navy Medical Corps officer.
Stocks said that when he heard about the program, he knew Chesapeake Regional Healthcare was the perfect place to launch it. The medical center’s staff is about 9 percent veterans, Stocks said.
Filler’s chosen path will be in anesthesia. He will work as an anesthesia technician while earning his civilian certification. Filler served in the United States Navy with distinction. He was honorably discharged in April 2016 just after the governor signed the bill.
“Politicians – a lot of times you see them roll out, they’re at military events, they’re with veterans. A lot of them love to be able to use the flag, our veterans and our active duty at different events. But here in Virginia, we love and honor and respect those who’ve served,” McAuliffe said.
The governor said the program holds special importance to him. He is the father of a Marine and the son of a World War II veteran.
Northam attended Virginia Military Institute and served eight years active-duty in the U.S. Army.
House passes five bills to assist veterans
The United States House of Representatives passed the following legislation:
H.R. 5166, the WINGMAN Act – Rep. Brat was an original cosponsor of this legislation to help Congressional offices better serve the veterans in their district in navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs.
H.R. 5458, the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act
H.R. 3286, the HIRE Vets Act
H.R. 5600, the No Hero Left Untreated Act
H.R. 4757, To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the eligibility for headstones, markers, and medallions furnished by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for deceased individuals who were awarded the Medal of Honor and are buried in private cemeteries
“Our active duty military and our veterans have given much to this nation while expecting little in return. It is our obligation to ensure that they have the necessary health care and other benefits that were promised to them when they signed up to serve. The passage of these bills will help put veterans back to work and ensure they receive the quality of care they deserve. I am proud to fight for those who risked everything to defend our nation,” said Congressman Dave Brat (VA-7).
The Culpeper Times has highlighted dozens of area veterans since starting the Salute to Veterans page. We thank Larry Alexander and Hans Heinz for their service.