Reflecting back on the past General Assembly session, state Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-36) said over the Memorial Day weekend that the “passage of transportation legislation was the most important funding bill in 27 years; not since former Gov. Gerald Baliles’ transportation legislation was enacted has there been a transportation bill more important. … We very much needed an infusion of cash for both maintenance and new construction and this legislative package will provide it.”
Turning to other legislative priorities she was heavily involved in, she described two veterans programs and one health care information data-gathering program that occupied her time.
Puller has been a long-time advocate for Virginia veterans and this area accounts for a significant amount of her legislative priorities in the General Assembly. The recently concluded session was no different.
“This June marks the first anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program designed to encourage businesses to hire veterans and to help veterans find employment,” she said. “In the long run this program promises to have a very important impact on lowering the unemployment rate of veterans, which is substantially higher than other segments of our population. Along with Del. Richard Anderson in the House of Delegates and my effort in the Senate we spearheaded the passage of the V3 program.”
As an example of the worth of this program, Puller mentioned that this past Tuesday, May 28 in Norfolk, the V3 program along with the City of Norfolk hosted a veterans employment recruiting event attended by approximately a dozen employers. A similar event will be held Oct. 8 in northern Virginia, said Steve Combs, director of the V3 program. The site location has yet to be determined. It will serve all veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, soon-to-transition service members, and spouses.
Puller also highlighted her work on the Virginia Wounded Warriors program. Catherine Wilson, executive director of the Wounded Warriors program, gives Puller credit for “being an ardent supporter, from concept to execution of the wounded warriors program.” Begun in 2008 the Virginia Wounded Warriors program is now present in five regional offices in Virginia, working to find housing for homeless veterans, partnering with local Community Services Boards to assist veterans and their families of all eras with a variety of counseling and referral services such as benefits eligibility counseling, housing, employment, health care, and other public and private assistance programs.
Wilson described a recent case demonstrating the program’s value where a veteran was discovered living along a river, homeless, for 15 years, who they have since placed in sustainable housing.
“We average 500 veterans that we assist monthly with a variety of services; 157 veterans have been placed in sustainable housing that were previously homeless,” Wilson said. She added that Puller has always been supportive of the wounded warriors program.
Puller also cited her work as chair of the Joint Commission on Health Care. This included implementing a commission priority: developing the “All Payer Health Care Claims Data Base.”
“When completely developed, the health care data base will provide the transparency necessary for consumers to make better health care decisions,” she said. The goal is to join other states in implementing a program designed to accomplish the following:
Improve public health surveillance, including reports on injuries; chronic diseases; and health conditions.
Allow employers to compare their employee health plans statewide
Enable employers and employees to compare quality, costs, and efficiency of health care delivery systems.