Thursday January 28, 2016
South Burlington Representative Helen Head was the recent recipient of the Seven Seals Award for her work as chairperson of Vermont’s House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs. The award, presented by Shawn Bryan, chairman of Vermont State ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve), is in honor of Head’s unwavering support for Vermont veterans and National Guard and Reserve members. Head was nominated for the ESGR Patriot Award by one of her colleagues, a Navy Reservist, in the Vermont Legislature. The award recognizes Chairperson Head’s leadership on a variety of veteran related issues in her committee and in the Vermont State Legislature.
Representative Head reported she was surprised to receive the Seven Seals Award, saying, “While I had no idea it was coming my way, I was honored to accept it.” Head added, “My committee has worked very hard and effectively over the last decade to ensure passage of legislation to help improve the lives of military members: active military and reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.” Just a few of Head’s committee legislative highlights include requiring that employers hold jobs open for Vermont National Guard (VTNG) members who are deployed, increasing scholarships and low interest loans for students who are members of the VTNG, and wages for those called out on state duty, such as the extraordinary duty Vermonters saw after Tropical Storm Irene.
The Vermont House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs considers matters relating to alcoholic beverages; housing; claims against the State; labor relations; military matters, including those relating to civil defense and discharged veterans, their dependents, and survivors; and all matters relating to subjects for which there is no other appropriate committee. In regards to their efforts helping to improve the lives of military members, Head says the committee has worked with the Government Operations Committee and the Secretary of State’s office on streamlining the process for granting separating service members credit for expertise gained during military service while seeking licensure in Vermont’s professional licensing system. In addition, military families are assisted by the enactment of a multi-state compact to assure the rights of military children transferring into Vermont’s public school system.
“Thanks also to the work of the committee, military spouses are not disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits because of the relocation required in order to accompany their military husband or wife,” says Representative Head. Additionally, the committee recommended (and the House and Senate approved) the creation of vital service officer positions to help Vermont veterans advocate for benefits with the federal Veterans Administration. Head also reported, “We are shining a spotlight on military sexual trauma and veteran suicide, as well as working to assure the sustainability of the Vermont Veterans Home.”
The ESGR, a Department of Defense office, who gives the Seven Seals Award, was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment. The Seven Seals Award is the broadest and most inclusive award given by ESGR and is presented at the discretion of the State Chair or by ESGR senior leadership.
Representative Head says she is proud of the Seven Seals Award, adding, “I view it as a tribute to all the work that the entire General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee has done to improve the lives of our service members and their families.”