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Legislature OKs funds to clear vets backlog
The 83rd Texas Legislature has approved, funded, and passed several bills affecting veterans. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus committed over $1.5 million to a one-year State Strike Force to assist the VA with fully developed claims teams to help with the backlog of veterans’ claims in Texas.
In January 2013, state leaders committed an additional $500,000 to the effort. The 83rd Legislature continued these initiatives through 2014-15, appropriating an additional $4 million over the next two years to help address the backlog and file fully developed claims. To date, this initiative has helped the VA process more than 1,000 Texas veterans’ claims that were older than one year.
The Legislature also allocated another $3 million to provide housing services for veterans through the Housing4TexasHeroes grant program.
The Veteran Entrepreneur Program is a new program to foster and promote veteran entrepreneurship and business ownership throughout the state, formally created by SB 1476. Additionally, permanent funding was created to defray the cost of the Hazlewood exemption to institutions of higher education across the state.
A network of veteran education counselors was established to assist Texas veterans in maximizing their educational benefits and to assist institutions of higher education in expanding services offered to veterans and their families. A Veteran Education Excellence Recognition Award also recognizes institutions of higher education that meet or exceed standards for providing specific services to veterans.
The legislature passed House Bill 633, which allows Texans to make donations to the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans’ Assistance when applying for or renewing a driver license.
The Legislature recognized the need to expand and enhance mental-health services available to Texas veterans by passing HB 2392, which formalizes and strengthens the state’s Veteran Mental Health Program. An additional $4 million was allocated to this bill, which will also secure additional mental-health resources for the Texas National Guard.
The Legislature passed other legislation, discounts on utility bills for certain disabled veterans, and property tax exemptions for surviving spouses of service members killed in action.
For more information, visit http://bit.ly/13SVFBu.
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