AUSTIN, Texas - State lawmakers are returning to Austin for the legislative session, and with it, comes lots of questions.
For example, what will that mean for veterans? What veteran-related legislation will lawmakers be looking at this year?
Mitch Fuller, the national and state legislative chairman with the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.
Mitch Fuller: Mike, Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Mike Warren: Going into this session, what are the VFW big priorities?
Mitch Fuller: We want to first off, I want to thank the legislature in past sessions and the governor and lieutenant governor for all their support of the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars. We want to continue the momentum of veterans transition to access to great jobs, continue to increase the programs for access to treatment for military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury. We are going to advocate for two more veterans, state veterans cemeteries. There's one in the works on the panhandle. And we think the demographics support another one in East Texas. And we will advocate very strongly for medical cannabis and continuing to grow the Texas Compassionate Use Program and the legality of Delta eight, which is a hemp based product as well. We believe strongly that our brothers and sisters need all the alternative access other than pharmaceutical.
Mike Warren: Is the legislature going to be supportive, especially of these hemp initiatives?
Mitch Fuller: We have had broad bipartisan support in both chambers in past sessions for this, and we're thankful for that. And so the Texas Compassionate Use Program is the medical marijuana program in Texas, and we are grateful for post-traumatic stress being added in the last session for that program, for medical marijuana, hemp based Delta eight products are more accessible. They're affordable and they're effective. And we strongly believe in our brothers and sisters having a choice to choose every alternative to that.
Mike Warren: You know, of the different initiatives that you were talking about. If there is if you could only if there is only one that would actually pass through the legislature this session, what would it be?
Mitch Fuller: I think continuing and there's been great momentum with this. And Senator Hancock, who was the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in the last session, said something very profound. And it's very simplistic and obvious because the best thing the state of Texas can do for veterans coming off of active duty is to give them access to two great jobs in Texas. And so there's 1.5 million veterans in Texas, and that's 1.5 million veterans and their families. And you've got large military installations in Texas, and we want to ensure that we've got access to employment, making, licensing, professional licensing more even more streamlined, that it has been. And again, the legislature has done a great job in previous sessions of doing just that.
Mike Warren: Have the needs of veterans changed over the last 15, 20 years?
Mitch Fuller: I think definitely. And I'm personally an Iraq war veteran. I'm a post-9-11 veteran. And a lot of what we advocate for in Austin with the Texas legislature is very much in line with what we advocate for nationally. And one of the biggest pieces of legislation nationally was passed and signed into law last August, which is the PACT Act, which addresses the exposure to toxins. Burn pits.
Mike Warren: Right.
Mitch Fuller: Since 911. That also applies to Vietnam veterans, Gulf War veterans as well, multiple generations. So mental health, access to mental health that that is still a priority, always will be a priority. Addressing veteran suicide, which is still a huge problem all over the country.
Mike Warren: Well, hopefully the legislature is going to respond. We are out of time for now.
Mitch Fuller: Thank you.
Mike Warren: But Mitch Fuller, a veteran of foreign wars. We appreciate your coming by and speaking with us.