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Sen. Blunt Says Missouri Can Do Better For Veterans And Spouses Of Service Members

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Roy Blunt talks about issues to help soldiers and veterans at the annual meeting of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership in Waynesville.

WAYNESVILLE — Sen. Roy Blunt is quick to tell people he is proud of soldiers, veterans and the bases in Missouri.

And he says the state can do better in supporting those soldiers and their families.

Blunt was a speaker Thursday at the annual meeting of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes the region around Fort Leonard Wood.

The theme of the meeting was “Supporting National Defense in the Heart of America."

Blunt told the crowd of over 100 people that a significant barrier to soldiers being happy and successful at Fort Leonard Wood is their spouses being unemployed or underemployed.

He said it’s been a problem for a long time, and Missouri has only recently started to address it.

“We’re beginning to do that in Missouri,” Blunt said. “I’d like to be able to make the argument year in and year out that no state is doing that better than we are.”

Blunt said some things that could help would be more robust job placement services and allowing spouses’ out-of-state professional licenses and certifications to be valid in Missouri. 

That same idea could apply to veterans and help them get jobs.

“There is absolutely no reason we shouldn’t be doing everything we can think of to figure out how Missouri is the most appealing state for a veteran to come to and take those same skills and go to work,” Blunt said.

Missouri has made one of those changes with commercial driver's licenses, or CDLs.

“Just this year, we were able to put through just a piece of what Sen. Blunt is talking about,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who also spoke at the meeting.

“If you’ve learned how to drive one of these trucks that you see on base, there’s no reason on God’s green earth you need to come back and go through complete CDL training in the state of Missouri. We have now fixed that,” Kehoe said. 

Kehoe and Blunt are both calling for that concept to be expanded to include more technical and medical fields. 

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.