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Minnesota 2006 Legislative Session Veteran Information

STATE LEGISLATURE PASSES MULTI-PART VETERANS PACKAGE

A portion of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veterans package, made it through the Minnesota Legislature. The $9 million original package sought by the governor was aimed at helping returning veterans adjust back to civilian life and be successful.

The final version totaled $3.4 million in new money for the programs. Expenditures include:

  1. $2 million for the State Soldier’s Assistance Program, a general program for financially supporting veterans as they make the transition back to their communities.
  2. $100,000 to create a new veterans website that will provide a one-stop source for information and benefits.
  3. $200,000 for grants to counties to enhance services provided by the County Veterans Service Officers.
  4. $600,000 to establish a group of representatives at Minnesota colleges and schools who can help returning veterans get into school.
  5. $500,000 in additional money to serve veterans, particularly minorities and women, who may have not been aware of the benefits they have coming.
  6. $80,000 to the VFW, the DAV, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Veterans of America for veterans services.
  7. $12.1 million to the Veterans Homes in bonding money that includes $6 million in asset preservation; $637,000 for a Fergus Falls special care unit; $700,000 for a Hasting supportive housing unit; $600,000 for a dementia wander area at Luverne; $2.46 million for an emergency power system at the Minneapolis Veterans Home, and $1.7 million for a Silver Bay master plan.

In other action, the lawmakers:

  1. 1. Requested the colleges, universities and the University of Minnesota to treat all military veterans as residents of the state for tuition purposes.
  2. Stops late charges on veteran students who are waiting for government educational assistance.
  3. Gave military personnel on leave free access to all State parks.
  4. Provided employment leave for family members of an injured or killed soldier. Employers must also provide unpaid leave for family members to attend a military ceremony.
  5. Authorized two plaques in the Court of Honor at the Capital, one for Medal of Honor recipients and one for military war dogs and their handlers.

Part of the new funding plan will be to put the veterans outreach program on regular state funding, rather than depend on license plate money. The plate money will now be used for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans and other programs. The extra money for the Soldier’s Assistance program will mean that it will provide a stronger and wider safety net for returning veterans, and also for older veterans who meet the guidelines. Another program funded was the Income Tax Credit for Recent Veterans bill. The Legislature provided up to $708 in income tax credit for those veterans who served up to a year in a combat zone since 2001; this will not take the place of a bonus program at some point for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.