The state of veterans
This was a highly successful year for veteran issues in the Iowa Legislature. It has been an honor for me to serve as the first chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee in the Iowa House. Many people have commented that the establishment of this committee was the most beneficial thing that could have been done for veterans in the State, since it provides a focal point for all of the bills that affect the veteran population.
During the course of our meetings, it became clear that access to veteran benefits varied widely across the State. Some counties have active veteran affairs directors, while others have none. The Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs has been understaffed. A new veterans' cemetery will be opened in Iowa, which will only add to the burden. With that in mind, an appropriation of $190,000 is included in the budget to add two new service officers in the Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs and to hire a cemetery director.
One other budget item was included to allocate $10,000 to each county to help fund a veteran affairs service officer. Each county will decide if they would like to hire a part/full time person or possibly work with adjoining counties to share such a staff position. It is imperative that veterans know what state/federal benefits are available.
The Veterans' Trust fund will be funded for $5 million dollars this year.
Last year we authorized and funded the Veterans' Homebuyer Program. It was highly successful, and sometime this year we will put an additional $2 million dollars into the program.
After hearing testimony from several veterans who had been injured in action, we responded by setting up the Injured Veterans' Fund. The monies in this fund will be used for families of servicemen/women who have been injured in a combat zone for immediate expenses due to medical stay or rehabilitation. Travel expenses and hotel accommodations may be paid for from this fund during the time the veteran is hospitalized. It is at this time that the veteran needs his/her family to be at his/her side.
The legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill that prohibits individuals from causing a disturbance within 500 feet of a funeral.
Finally, the legislature passed a bill that allows a veteran who was injured in the line of duty or a POW to receive a reduced priced hunting OR fishing license, or a combined hunting and fishing license for $5. Under current law, these same individuals were not allowed to receive just a hunting license or just a fishing license. If they were eligible to get the combined hunting and fishing license, it cost them $30.
We'll most likely be back at the Capitol during the first week of May. I can be reached at home on weekends at 712-732-3781 or email at email@example.com. My desk number at the Capitol is 515-281-7481.