Senate Republicans passed an original budget bill for veterans and military services in 2019 that would have cut funding for CORE services and recruitment funding. Senate DFLers were able to ensure that military and veterans services received full funding, while Senate Republicans focused more on lip-service than actually taking care of those who have given so much.
Funding for veterans’ homes
However, because veterans were transferred from the older 100 bed home to the new home, the new home resulted in having no new beds for veterans, doing nothing to shorten the waiting list of veterans waiting for beds. Refilling the older facility should be a priority conversation for the committee.
New veterans’ homes
The 2018 bonding bill included $32 million for three new veterans’ homes in Minnesota. The funds for the new homes, however, must be matched with federal funds, and federal funding for new veterans’ homes is limited and dependent on a number of factors, including a waiting list. A resolution encouraging the federal government to fund the state homes is expected. There may also be other legislation introduced to put pressure on the federal government to provide a match for the bonding money.
Republicans have named the new veterans’ homes as a top priority for this session. But veterans don’t only need homes – they need wraparound services that acknowledge their service and the physical and mental health issues that can come with serving.
Veterans Restorative Justice Act
A bill that would create a uniform system for veterans’ courts across the state was heard in the Veterans Committee last session but never made it to final passage.
The Veterans Restorative Justice Act would recognize that mental health is a factor for many veterans involved in the criminal justice system. The bill would establish two pathways for veterans navigating the criminal justice system, focusing on treatment and rehabilitation. The goal of the bill is to see more veterans graduate from veterans’ courts, allowing them to get the help they need to contribute to their communities. Senate DFLers are committed to recognizing veterans’ service, and that includes the mental health issues that can come with service.
Lowering costs for veterans
A number of bills that would lower costs for veterans, including bills that would allow for free hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans, as well as a bill that would remove fees for license plates and licensing fees, title fees, driver’s license fee, and other vehicle-related charges for veterans with a 100% service related disability are likely to be seen this session.
These bills are small measures that go a long way in making life a little easier for the state’s veterans.