Geographically balancing veterans’ representation

February 28, 2010

As a state representative I’ve several times nominated a highly qualified Milwaukee veteran to sit on the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) board. The nominations received no response from the governor’s office. I checked to see who from this area was already serving, but found no DVA board members from the greater Milwaukee area.

That led me to look at the historical makeup of the board. I discovered only one Milwaukee County veteran appointed to the board since 1991. Waukesha and Green Bay, home to the third- and fourth-largest veterans’ populations, have had only had one board representative since the end of the Vietnam War. Other regions, like the Fox Valley, have seen equally long droughts.

State law only specifies that the seven DVA board members must have seen active duty, two in Vietnam. Though brief, the spirit of the law is important as a guide for the executive appointment power, to ensure the DVA board is a representative body. However, since large swaths of the state’s veterans population have been underrepresented, many state veterans have started to feel disenfranchised by the DVA board. They’re uneasy about its ability to represent the interests of all Wisconsin veterans, since currently four DVA board members live in Dane County, and the rest in western and northern Wisconsin.

I decided to spell out the spirit of the law more clearly. I have introduced Assembly Bill 752, requiring geographic representation on the DVA board. State veterans groups, including the American Legion, AMVETS, and Purple Heart Veterans, strongly support this change.

The fix is simple and logical: my bill divides the state veterans population into seven districts of about 65,000 veterans each. The bill requires each member of the seven-seat board to represent one of those districts. The governor retains the power to appoint members, and the bill won’t replace any current, confirmed board members. It also requires that the districts be redrawn every 10 years if their population has changed.

All of our state’s veterans deserve to know their concerns are being weighed fairly in the DVA boardroom.

Chris Sinicki is the state representative for Wisconsin’s 20th state Assembly District, which includes southern Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy, the airport, and other parts of the south side. Her website is chrissinicki.net and she can be reached at (888) 534-0020 or rep.sinicki@legis.wi.gov.

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Comments

2 Comments on "Geographically balancing veterans’ representation"

  1. Regional Veterans’ News 3/1/10 : Veterans Today on Mon, 1st Mar 2010 8:33 am 

    […] Milwaukee, Wisconsin Geographically balancing veterans’ representation […]

  2. KRalph on Thu, 18th Mar 2010 5:28 pm 

    Thank’s Chris. I am alittle tired of Madison government running what is suppose to be a state board. Entire southeastern Wi. not being represented is not correct and hopefully the state’s politicians act on your bill and not just agree with it.

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