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Texas Honors Her Military Veterans

Posted about 9 years ago by Dorothy Darby

Texas Honors Her Military Veterans

 

by Jeff Wentworth

State Senator, District 25

 

          The Americans we honor on Veterans Day are more than men and women who once wore a military uniform.

             They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends who stepped forward when duty called.  Many of these ordinary people did extraordinary things to ensure that our daily lives are not punctuated with the sounds of machine-gun fire and exploding bombs. 

            As one of four Texas state senators who has seen active duty military service, I am proud that the Legislature continues to honor our more than 1.7 million Texas veterans with concrete benefits, ranging in scope from property tax exemptions to educational opportunities for their children.

            This legislative session, we passed House Bill 3613.  This bill provides that Texas veterans who have a 100 percent disability rating or are considered individually unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer have to pay property taxes on their resident homesteads.

            Children of honorably discharged veterans who served at least 180 days of active duty will benefit from Senate Bill 93, the Hazlewood Legacy Act.  This bill allows veterans to transfer their Hazlewood benefits to their children, who may use them for up to 150 hours of tuition and fees at any Texas state university or college.  Hazlewood benefits also may be transferred to the spouse of a soldier who is killed or missing in action or totally disabled.

            I am one of the co-authors of Senate Bill 297, which expands in-state tuition benefits to military veterans who register officially an intent to establish Texas residency and who agree to live in Texas while attending a state college or university.  I believe allowing non-Texas veterans and their families to pay in-state tuition will attract veterans to the state.  Asking them to establish residency may help ensure that once they complete their education they will stay in Texas, using their skills and talent to contribute to our state’s economy.

            The emotional toll of military service often remains long after men and women have been discharged from active duty.  Prior to the 81st Legislative Session, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) did not have a formalized mental health program targeted to veterans.  Senate Bill 1325 directs DSHS to create a mental health intervention program for veterans that includes peer-to-peer counseling so veterans may share their experiences with Texans who have had similar experiences.

            In 2007, during the 80th Legislative Session, we created the Fund for Veterans’ Assistance (FVA) to help communities address the needs of veterans and their families.  During this year’s legislative session, we established two FVA funding sources.  Senate Bill 1655 created the Veterans Cash scratch-off lottery ticket, which goes on sale Monday, November 9.  Senate Bill 1940 added the FVA to the State Employee Charitable Campaign, the authorized campaign for state agency and higher education employee charitable giving.

            These are only a few of the 35 bills we passed to show our well-deserved gratitude for the service and sacrifice of military veterans and their families.