NEWINGTON - How might the State of Connecticut better serve its veteran community and military service members?
State Rep. Gary Turco, D-Newington, is establishing an Advisory Committee to help shape policy decisions that impact veterans, following his appointment to the legislature’s Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Turco made a request for this particular committee appointment due to the high concentration of veterans who live in Newington, which he represents in House District 27.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates the Newington Veterans Hospital and veterans and their families reside in supportive housing on the adjacent Victory Way. Several veterans’ service organizations also are in town.
“This summer and fall while I was campaigning, I met more veterans than I have in the past,” Turco said. “Some of them told me they wanted to work with me on issues to help veterans. Since I’ve never served myself, I thought it would be really great if I could form a collaborative group to help advise on legislation and state policy affecting veterans.”
He and his staff are now recruiting people to get involved in the advisory committee, which will gather virtually for its first meeting Monday, Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom.
Anyone interested in participating can sign up at HouseDems.ct.gov/Turco/VAAC.
Meetings will take place at least once every other month. During the initial meeting Turco said he will be looking for immediate concerns to be brought to the table early on in the legislative session. However, input will be ongoing as the full Veterans Affairs Committee will have the opportunity to submit bills later on in the session as well.
“This is an opportunity to ensure the voices of veterans and service members are heard throughout the legislative process and can help inform decisions made at the state Capitol,” Turco said, going on to explain, “I’m looking to hear directly from Newington veterans, family members of veterans or even people who have worked with veterans and understand some of their needs.”
Newington Veterans Coffee House founder Chris Veilleux is an example of an individual whose insight could prove beneficial to shaping state policy. A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Veilleux moved to Newington a few years ago and runs weekly gatherings for veterans out of American Legion Post 117 on Willard Avenue.
“I’d like to see more awareness brought to PTSD and suicides,” Veilleux pointed out. “I’d like veterans to be able to find care before they’re in crisis. I wouldn’t mind helping advise this committee.”
In addition to his seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Turco was appointed vice chairman of the Higher Education Committee, on which he served previously. He will also serve on the Appropriations Committee, chairing the sub-committee on accountability.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.