Despite recent efforts to honor New Jersey veterans with perks like free beach access and hiring preferences for civil service jobs, Assemblyman Brian Bergen believes it time to move on from the “soft-shoe” approach.
Bergen, an Apache fighter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom, scoured the nation for nine months searching for best practices and working legislation that could help veterans.
The Morris County lawmaker expectes his nine-bill package to bring New Jersey to the top of the list in regards to taking care of veterans.
“These bills represent the very best ideas from around the country,” said Bergen (R-25). “It is time we make New Jersey the most desirable place for our heroes to come when they are finished serving our country.”
Taking the Best from Around the Nation
Bergen utilized existing legislation and successful programs instituted in Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and West Virginia when developing the nine-bill package.
For example, an Illinois program that gives service-disabled veterans a property tax discount depending on their level of disability was adapted for New Jersey. Currently, the state only provides an exemption for those who are 100% disabled.
Additionally, annual payments to seriously disabled veterans would jump to $3,000 from $750 under legislation inspired by a Delaware bill.
“Veterans gave us and our country their best, and they should get the best we can offer back,” concluded Bergen.
Tracking and Building New Jersey’s Veteran Population
While New Jersey is home to 308,000 veterans, only 4.4% of the state’s total population consists of veterans, representing the lowest percentage among the 50 states, according to data from 24/7 Wall Street.
Additionally, the Veterans Administration projects that number to drop sharply over the next 30 years as veterans move away from the Garden State.
Bergen endorses a “Bring Veterans to New Jersey” program which would pay up to $5,000 in relocation expenses to veterans who accept a job offer and move to New Jersey.
“We want veterans to come to New Jersey. We need them in our workforce and we want them to own businesses,” explained Bergen. “The more we do to incentivize them the better.”