On 5 May 2016, the Pennsylvania War Veterans Council (PWVC), an important association of the major veterans service organizations in the commonwealth, agreed to its legislative goals for 2016-2017. They should not be overlooked by our Governor and General Assembly, as they are germane to improving the care of our veterans, including those of the most recent generations:
1. Revise the Veterans Trust Fund by adding a Board of Trustees to bring it into compliance with the nature of a trust fund and refine its administration instructions as to its uses to ensure accountability and ensure its effective future use.
2. Increase the number of state veterans’ homes or provide a suitable alternative to improve the state system of caring for aging veterans in need of its services.
3. Establish a one time, nominal bonus for those deployed into combat zones for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS), Operation Resolute Support (ORS), Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), all members of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and any future operations related to the War on Terror.
4. Preserve without change or modification the Commonwealth’s law concerning small dollar loans, which is in conformance with federal law concerning small dollar loans to service personnel.
5. Increase funding for Act 66 Outreach programs by five hundred thousand dollars each budget year through SFY 20-21 and maintain a separate line item in the DMVA budget for this program.
6. Revise the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) to subsume the Veterans Temporary Assistance (VTA) program, which relies exclusively on public donations to the veterans Trust Fund (the fund was created to supplement government appropriations assisting veterans, not replace them).
7. Revise the Real Estate Tax Exemption program law to give the State Veterans Commission the prerogative to determine need as established in the Constitution. Add unmarried spouses of those killed in action to the eligibility of the program.
8. Review and make recommendations to improve the State Veterans Commissions role in advising The Adjutant General on matters pertaining to Pennsylvania veterans.
9. Transfer the Jobs for Veterans state grant program from the DOL to the DMVA in accordance with the SOLVE Act.
10. To review and make recommendations for veterans incarcerated in the state correctional system.
Historically, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA, operated by our National Guard) has tended to concentrate on the administration of a few state benefits for which it has been responsible and the state veterans homes, where most of its workforce and activity has lain. On occasion, the PWVC, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has attempted to push DMVA’s Office of Veterans Affairs into thinking in larger patterns and strategically — in addition to conversing with the General Assembly and the Governor. Frankly, because the key players are the same, it has usually assumed the role of the State Veterans Commission in advising the state government when it comes to policy and legislative matters. (The State Veterans Commission under various Adjutant Generals has not been as assertive.)
As of 21 June 2016