Jennifer S. Carroll
Sailor. Officer. Director. Representative. Lieutenant Governor. Advocate. Veteran
Jennifer Carroll enlisted in the United States Navy in 1979. At a time when women were not the norm in her chosen field of aviation maintenance, she rose through the ranks from an enlisted (E-1) Jet Mechanic and retired as a highly decorated (0-4) Lieutenant Commander Aviation Maintenance Officer after 20 years.
Medals received: Meritorious Service Medal, two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals, two Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbons, U.S. Coast Guard Operations Ribbon, Navy "E", Good Conduct Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, two Navy Volunteer Service Medal, two Sea Service Ribbons, Overseas Ribbon, Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon, two Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbons, and an Expert Pistol Medal.
In 2000, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Jennifer as Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA). She was responsible for the claims and benefits of over 1.8 million veterans. Under her leadership, more than $63 million in retroactive compensation was awarded to Florida veterans. She lobbied for the retention of state construction funds for the Bay and Charlotte County State Veterans' Nursing Homes, and led the generation of two federal matching grant applications that resulted in $15 million of federal funds for these projects. She personally went statewide and raised funds to construct Florida's World War II Memorial in Tallahassee, FL. Jennifer was also the Chairperson for Florida's Council on Homelessness. She sought ways for Florida to provide enhanced services toward solving homeless problems in the state, particularly within the veteran's community. Jennifer won her challenged to the Department of Veterans Affairs to overturn their ruling to approve a national veteran's cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida. She also worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring the completion to a reality. Under her leadership the Department cut spending by 12% in one year.
In May of 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Jennifer to the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission where she served until October 2007. The Commission traveled the country to obtain information on the Veteran Administration (VA) compensation delivery system, held countless public testimony and presented to the Congress and President George W. Bush recommendations to enhance improvements for a better VA compensation and delivery system for veterans and surviving spouses.
As Lieutenant Governor, Jennifer Carroll, in addition to her leadership position as Chairperson of Space Florida and oversight of Military Affairs, she once again had the Department of Veterans Affairs in her portfolio.
Recognizing the fiscally challenging times the state government and the people of Florida were living through, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll's goals for FDVA in 2011 and 2012 was to work with the new FDVA director and the Governor's Office of Policy and Budget (OPB) to get FDVA's budget down to a reasonable balance, by trimming costs, unnecessary positions and promoting wise fiscal decision to reflect the true budget needs of the department.
Some of the cost savings recommendations she made that were adopted by OPB in adopted by the Governor's budget included:
- Use existing Veterans resources and infrastructure such as County Veterans Service Offices and service organizations such as VFW and American Legion offices and staff to be more cost effective than hiring new claims examiners. Direct Veterans to a variety of options and partners to seek assistance so that FDVA is not barring the totality of Veterans claims.
- Extend the life of the van fleet with better maintenance rather than purchase new vehicles as well as using the state vehicle motor pool.
- Request replacement for "medical necessities" at the Veterans Homes rather than requesting replacement of all equipment such as big screen TVs and ping-pong tables.
Additionally, as Lt. Governor, Jennifer attended and spoke at dozens of veteran's events and meeting. Florida veterans and the communities that honor them love hearing from and meeting her. Veterans who served as enlisted members of the armed forces identify with Jennifer as one of their own. Retired officers are equally impressed by her rise through the ranks, as a woman, an immigrant and an African-American.
As a general veteran's policy, Lt. Governor Carroll focused on keeping the budget in check to ensure more resources were provided to those who have earned them. She was concerned about the special issues facing her fellow women veterans. She believes that a special emphasis should be placed on our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, as the WWII veterans, the "Greatest Generation" fades away, the Vietnam generation is starting to retire and deserve the respect and love that evaded them upon their return home from battle four decades ago.
During her time as Executive Director of FDVA she lobbied the VA to improve consistency to include standardizing raters' training to reduce claims backlog, she advocated to get the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities streamlined so all service veterans can be rated equally, she also lobbied to get the VA to modernize their information technology system to improve claims processing, and to have a seamless transition of medical records for military members when they exited the active duty forces. As the only female member on the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission she provided recommendations and advocated for women veterans, military families and surviving spouses.
Finally, Jennifer is very concerned about the growing problems veterans are experiencing with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She believes that the rating schedule needs to be improved to take out judgment and subjectivity to develop a comprehensive evaluation that will account for the nuances associated with PTSD.