Press Release: Gov. Evers Announces Budget Initiatives to Support Wisconsin’s Veterans

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers Announces Budget Initiatives to Support Wisconsin's Veterans
Governor’s plan bolsters Veterans Affairs workforce, supports veteran employment, education, and housing security, expands access to veterans mental health services

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced his 2023-25 budget will include several innovative proposals to serve Wisconsin’s veterans, building upon previous investments funded by federal pandemic relief aid based on recommendations from the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity created in 2022. The governor’s initiatives announced today include funding to bolster the workforce at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), support veteran employment, education, and housing security, and expand access to mental health services for veterans. 

“From creating our Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity to investing in employment opportunities, housing assistance, and increased mental health services for our veteran community, we’ve made important progress these last few years to ensure Wisconsin veterans have access to the support and resources they’ve earned and deserve,” said Gov. Evers. “Now, we’re continuing that good work in the upcoming biennial budget by proposing continued investment in various innovative initiatives to ensure the state is equipped to meet the needs of our veteran community and help them build strong, lasting success.”

Gov. Evers and the Evers Administration are committed to ensuring Wisconsin veterans have the tools and resources they need to thrive in their civilian lives. In his 2022 State of the State address, Gov. Evers announced that he would be signing an executive order creating a Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity to develop new, innovative initiatives to support the more than 300,000 veterans who live in Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Evers signed Executive Order #157 to create the Commission and charged the Commission with identifying gaps in existing services, areas in need of robust investment, and reducing barriers to economic security, including efforts to expand access to higher education and job training, address housing insecurity, and increase mental and behavioral health support and substance use disorder treatment.

Gov. Evers’ Blue Ribbon Commission gathered input from stakeholders, conducted listening sessions, consulted experts, and built sound and innovative recommendations to build a better Wisconsin for veterans. Following the release of the Commission’s final report in September 2022 and based on the Commission’s recommendations, Gov. Evers announced a $10 million investment, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, in veteran services across the state. This investment included:

  • $4.5 million to support veteran mental health initiatives, including supporting community-based programs, increasing access to emergency services, and investing in peer support programs.
  • $2 million to create a rental assistance program for homeless veterans. This was also a recommendation from the Interagency Council on Homelessness’ “Welcoming Wisconsin Home” report.
  • An additional $1.5 million for the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program (VORP), which provides case management and support to veterans and connects veterans to community services, including substance use treatment, housing, education, and mental healthcare. This investment is intended to fund seven additional positions to serve veterans across the state. 
  • An additional $1.5 million for county veteran services offices (CVSOs) and Tribal veterans service offices (TVSOs), which help veterans connect to benefits, preventative programming, and family engagement activities. The funding will increase allocations to CVSOs and TVSOs by 100 percent, ensure TVSO payments are not being prorated, and increase payments to part-time CVSOs. 
  • An additional $500,000 for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Developments’ Hire Heroes Program, which provides services to veterans with high barriers to employment and reimburses employers for certain costs when hiring veteran employees.

Gov. Evers’ budget builds on the investments recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity, providing ongoing state support for these critical initiatives. A list of the governor’s proposed investments to support Wisconsin veterans is available below.

Addressing Veteran Needs

To ensure the current and future needs of Wisconsin veterans are evaluated and that DVA can be responsive to changing demands, the governor is proposing the following through his 2023-25 budget: 

  • Providing $500,000 general purpose revenue (GPR) to DVA to evaluate post-9/11 veteran needs arising from the increase in multiple deployments, higher survival rates, and longer-term use of skilled nursing.
  • Requiring DVA to explore expansion opportunities at all existing sites of the Veterans Housing and Recovery Program. 
  • Providing funding to DVA to create a master plan for the campus of the State Veterans Home at King to assess the current status of the campus and how the campus can serve veterans. 
  • Providing funding to the state veterans homes to address their ongoing needs so that each home has adequate resources to provide the best possible care to the most vulnerable veterans in Wisconsin. 
  • Supporting the continuation of pilot add-ons to address critical recruitment and retention needs at DVA by providing $6.7 million in non-GPR funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs to support add-ons for several nursing classifications.

Gov. Evers remains committed to meeting Wisconsin veterans where they are and making sure they’re aware of the services they’re entitled to, whether it’s mental health access, preventative programming, family engagement, or education benefits through:

  • Doubling the amount of funding to County and Tribal Veterans Services Offices (CVSOs and TVSOs) by providing $843,600 annually for CVSOs and $253,000 annually for TVSOs. CVSOs and TVSOs play a vital role in connecting veterans to needed services.
  • Providing $2.8 million ($1.2 million in fiscal year 24 and $1.6 million in fiscal year 25) to enable University of Wisconsin System campuses to provide services tailored to veterans, military personnel, and their families, including achieving the recommended School Certifying Officer (SCO) staffing level of one SCO for every 200 GI Bill-eligible students or otherwise improving or expanding services and supports for veteran and military personnel students.
  • Providing $450,000 GPR in each year as state support for the peer-run respite center for veterans to ensure the center has a reliable, ongoing funding source. 
  • Providing 7.0 FTE SEG positions and $957,200 SEG over the biennium to expand the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program, which provides outreach mental health services and support to veterans who may have a mental health condition or substance use disorder. The goal of the program is to reduce the suicide rate among veterans and to provide veterans access to mental health supports, housing, and other services.

Gov. Evers is also investing in further securing the ability of Wisconsin veterans to have access to the services and devices they need post-service by:

  • Providing $250,000 for a grant program to aid Wisconsin dog trainers in attaining Assistance Dog International accreditation, specifically for providing post-traumatic stress disorder training to better serve veterans.
  • Expanding access to the Assistance for Needy Veterans Grant program by including medical devices as an allowable expense under the program and increasing the annual and lifetime caps for support under this program.

Veteran Housing and Employment
In his budget proposal, Gov. Evers is encouraging housing and employment stability for veterans and their families through tax credits by:

  • Increasing eligibility for the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit by extending eligibility to those with a disability rating of at least 70 percent. This would provide an additional $43.2 million in tax relief to claimants over the biennium. 
  • Further expanding eligibility for the Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit by offering the credit to persons who otherwise qualify but rent instead of own their home. This proposal would provide approximately $10 million in tax relief over the biennium. 
  • Broadening the current disabled veteran-owned business certification within the Wisconsin Supplier Diversity Program to be a veteran-owned business certification and eliminating the fees associated with participating in the program.
  • Providing $450,000 GPR annually to assist employers that hire veterans who are transitioning to civilian life. The funding will help employers provide training and wrap-around services to veterans. 
  • Creating a veteran rental assistance program funded at $1 million GPR in each fiscal year.

Honoring Veterans Past and Present
To honor the final resting places of Wisconsin veterans, Gov. Evers is proposing:

  • Funding one new position at each of the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemeteries to maintain adequate services to those who qualify for internment. 
  • Investing $425,000 in FY24 and $355,000 in FY25 into new equipment to serve the needs of the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemeteries. 
  • Providing $500,000 GPR in each year of the biennium for the University of Wisconsin Missing-in-Action Recovery and Identification Project for missions to recover and identify Wisconsin veterans who went missing during deployment. 
  • Establishing Veterans Day as a state holiday to commemorate their service. Wisconsin is the only state that does not observe Veterans Day as a state holiday. 
An online version of this release is available here.