As the legislative calendar ends for this session our VFW led the way with over 200 witness slips to support House Bill 4268 an amendment to the veterans lottery program which provided access for not for profits to request grant funding to provide veterans with mental health services. The amendment changed the state statue from PSTD to Mental Health Behavorial Services. This broader scope would allow the not-for-profits to provide mental health first aid training, comfort dogs and services to the spouses of veterans who suffer secondary PTSD. The bill has been in the Senate state government committee for over two months and with eight days remaining we were able to pull it out of the committee and onto the floor for a vote.
Our membership made phone calls to senators to cosponsor the bill, and when the hearing was called we had over 200 members providing witnesslip’s in support of the bill. Phone calls to the Senate leadership moved the bill through its 2d and 3rd reading to a floor vote on April 6th.
This session of the General Assembly started out slow on veterans legislation but by the recess April 8 we had passed a bill to clarify the statute on veterans assistance commissions, a bill to create the office of IG to the IDVA, a bill to allow veterans benefits for less than honorable discharge due to sexuality or gender, free certification /professional licenses for the spouses of active duty dependents, a bill allowing states attorneys to give a legal opinion to the veterans assistance commission, and passage of the medal of honor Highway a 12 state compact naming US Highway 20 from Oregon to Massachusetts.
In the November Veto Session our number one legislative issue is house bill 2378 the amendment to the disabled veterans homestead exemption to include surviving spouses receiving DIC. This bill is important, when the veteran passes away the spouses income is cut in half and this bill will give them necessary support. To get this bill through we need every member to contact their legislators and urge them to cosponsor the bill, in the house and the senate.
On the federal side we need to continue support for the honor our PACT Act which passed the house and is now in the US Senate this bill will ensure veterans from Vietnam, atomic war vets, desert storm, Afghanistan and Iraq have presumptives for disability claims. We have been assured of support from both Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth.