Task force to highlight ‘forgotten’ and ‘invisible’ women
There are approximately 2 million women veterans in the US
today. Women make up about 10 percent of the nation’s veteran population, 17
percent of current military personnel, and 30 percent of military service
academy students. The number of women using VA care has tripled over the last
two decades. Previous studies noted that one in four women veterans faced
harassment when visiting VA facilities, both from other patients and staff. As
a result of these and other issues, female veterans continue to face problems
In order to elevate female veteran needs, Representative
Julia Brownley (D-CA) launched the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s new task
force on women veterans, with the goal of “advancing equity in access to
resources, benefits and healthcare” for the group.
Recently, women’s health services at the Veterans Health
Administration has made significant strides in recent years in improving
services for women according to their statements. This includes better
gynecological and maternity services, and new training programs to monitor and
curb harassment that female veterans may face.
Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee expressed
support for the new task force and have lauded its purpose.
Committee staff expect to see a compliment in the Senate, with
the plan to begin advocating for specific legislative fixes by this summer.
Legislation in Senate aims to expand veteran treatment
Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), John
Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the bill
for veteran treatment courts that allow those who have served the country to
get the care they need and expand access to a type of treatment court that
The bill, called the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination
Act of 2019, creates a program in coordination with the Department of Veterans
Affairs to help state, local and tribal governments to develop and maintain
veteran treatment courts by provide grants, training, and technical assistance
for such courts and communities that are interested in starting such a program.
Veteran treatment courts work in tandem with the traditional
criminal justice system to help rehabilitate veterans who have committed
non-violent misdemeanor crimes while they are transitioning back into civilian
life. Through this court system, veterans who are struggling with mental health
or substance abuse issues are able to enroll in recovery programs that are
designed to set them on a path to success.
A companion piece of legislation was introduced in the U.S.
House by Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
Stivers Pushing VA to Support Service Dogs For PTSD
Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) introduced “Puppies
Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act” which would
create a five-year pilot program to bring the Department of Veterans Affairs
together with non-profits to teach veterans how to train dogs to provide
therapy for PTSD. Once the dogs are trained, the program would allow the
veteran to adopt their dog to continue using for themselves.
Stivers is a brigadier general in his state’s Army National
Guard and says he has seen firsthand the impact service dogs can have for vets
struggling with PTSD. The VA restarted a study on the topic in 2015 after a
previous one was suspended. The study is taking longer than anticipated to
Currently, the VA will help a veteran get a service dog for
visual or mobility impairments. Stivers’ bill is his latest attempt to get PTSD
added to the list.
The legislation now has 118 cosponsors from both sides of
the aisle, and support from inside the VA, and possible companion legislation
in the Senate. Concern exists that impeachment and a possible government
shutdown could halt the progress being made.
Murphy & Tucker on Legislation to Allow Claiming and
Disposal of Veteran Family Member Cremains
Assemblywomen Carol Murphy (D) and Cleopatra Tucker (D) introduced
legislation (A-3883) allowing qualified veterans’ organizations to receive and
bury the unclaimed cremated remains – referred to as cremains – of eligible
spouses and dependents of veterans. The bill cleared the Assembly Military and
Veterans Affairs Committee and heads to the speaker now.
Vainieri Huttle & DeAngelo Bill to Expand Grant
Program to Benefit Homeless Veterans Advances in Assembly
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D) and Assemblyman Wayne
DeAngelo (D) introduced legislation to expand a grant program to rehabilitate
homes for veterans in need. The bill (A-4089) amends the New Jersey Housing
Assistance for Veterans Act to include the purchase and rehabilitation of
abandoned homes for homeless veterans. The parameters of the current pilot
program are limited to the rehabilitation of existing primary residences for
disabled or low-income veterans. Nonprofit veterans’ organizations with
experience in rehabilitating properties for homeless veterans would be eligible
to receive a grant to purchase and rehabilitate abandoned homes. Preference would be awarded to nonprofits serving
communities in the greatest need of homeless services. The program would aim to
achieve a fair distribution of veterans in geographical regions across New
“Rehabilitation” would also be redefined under the existing
law to clarify that pilot program funds may be used for a range of project
types: including repairs, renovations, reconstruction, and installation of new
The measure was approved by the Assembly Military and
Veterans Affairs Committee. The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for
NJ voters approve expansion of veterans property tax
New Jersey voters approved a statewide ballot question to
give veterans living in retirement communities a $250 property tax deduction. The
constitutional amendment was the only statewide referendum on the ballot.
Veterans who served in times of war, armed conflict or
emergency are eligible for the tax break on their homes or other property and
now those eligible vets who live in continuing care retirement communities also
qualify. Many of those who live in continued care communities pay fees to the
retirement community to help cover the facility’s property taxes. The approved
amendment allows the state to give the $250 property tax benefit to the
retirement community and requires them to pass on the value to the resident
veteran or surviving spouse.
Voters had to approve the change because the deduction is
written into the state constitution.
About a third of the close to 10,000 residents living in the
continuing-care communities are believed to be veterans. Extending the
deduction is expected to cost the state between $350,000 and $550,000 a year,
according to a fiscal estimate by the Office of Legislative Services.