Gubernatorial candidate Seti Warren says veterans should play role at highest level of state government

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PITTSFIELD — Gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren believes that veterans should be involved at the highest levels of state government, and he came to the city Thursday to announce his plan to make that happen.

Warren, a Democratic candidate and the sitting mayor of Newton, said that, as governor, he'd like to elevate the positions of his secretaries on veterans affairs and elder services to the Cabinet level. That way, he said, the voices of veterans and seniors would "be integrated in all the decisions that are made at the highest level of government."

Currently, he said, those secretaries report to the Department of Health and Human Services. He'd like to see them report directly to the governor.

"We lead the nation in veterans services," he said. "I believe we need to build on our success."

Warren, a third-generation veteran, served in the Navy Reserve for nine years and was deployed for one year in Iraq.

"Veterans and military families should be at the table," he said.

John Downing, president of Soldier On in Pittsfield, said veterans often fall through the cracks. He said Warren's proposal would help connect veterans across the commonwealth with national services.

One example, he said, comes with a grant that his agency uses to transport veterans to their doctor appointments. Sometimes those appointments are far away, and he'd like to be able to loop into similar services in those areas to get them where they need to go.

But his efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

"All of that planning takes place at a higher level," he said.

When veterans are more integrated in government, Downing said, the positive impacts will be felt by everyone.

"They feel abandoned at times," Downing said. "They have special needs that have to be met."

Reach Amanda Drane at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


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