As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Governor’s Military Council, Senator Janet Nguyen was proud to host a press conference at the State Capitol to announce Senate and Assembly bills designed to aid California’s Military Veterans. Joining her for this important announcement were Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller, Senate Republican Leader-Elect Patricia Bates, Senator Jim Nielsen, Senator Andy Vidak and Assemblyman Randy Voepel, as well as representatives from the American Legion, National Guard Association of California, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, California State Commanders Veterans Council, and the Women’s Veterans Alliance.
“Our Veterans have served this country bravely and it is only right for us to recognize their contributions and see that when they do come home, they receive the care and assistance they have earned,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “As an advocate for Veterans issues but more importantly as a member of a military family, I am proud to announce my Veterans package which consists of SB 409, SB 410 and SB 411. Together, these bills assist Veterans with complex mental health and behavioral needs, accelerate the path to work for Veterans transitioning into civilian life and reward State Military Reservists and Naval Militia for their extended service.”
Specifically, SB 409 would would require the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to develop a plan to accommodate Veterans with complex mental and behavioral needs at the state’s Veterans’ homes. This proposal comes on the heels of a January 2017 report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) which found that the state’s Veterans’ homes have limited capacity to assist Veterans with complex mental and behavioral needs, which at times results in Veterans being denied admission or being discharged involuntarily. To address this issue, SB 409 specifically requires a concrete strategy to determine how to best accommodate these Veterans.
SB 410, on the other hand, would improve access to State employment for newly discharged Veterans by allowing Veterans, prior to separating from the military, to submit a signed document by a commanding officer that verifies his or her military service and impending honorable discharge. Currently, Veterans must provide a Department of Defense form known as a DD-214 to the California Department of Human Resources to verify his or her military service, a process that can take a few months, delaying access to employment.
Finally, SB 411 establishes the State Military Reserve and Naval Militia Length of Service Award Act to provide California State Military Reserve members, once they reach the age of 50, an award of $100 per month, for life, if they have completed 10 years of service.
The legislative proposals announced during the press conference also included SB 197, SB 485 and AB 353. SB 197, introduced by Senators Pat Bates and Toni Atkins encourages the construction of needed facilities to serve active duty troops and Veterans afflicted with significant medical conditions. SB 485 introduced by Senators Nielsen and Newman updates and standardizes the policies and procedures governing California’s eight Veterans homes to create efficiencies, fairness and proper oversight. Finally, AB 353 introduced by Assemblyman Randy Voepel establishes a voluntary preference for employers to grant a Veteran during hiring and expands the exception to all Veterans, regardless of when they served.
For her part, Senator Republican Leader-Elect Patricia Bates said, “The Legislature must continue to do what it can to ensure that our veterans receive the support they have earned. That is why I am proud to jointly co-author Senate Bill 197 with Senator Toni Atkins that would lower the cost of constructing new specialized medical facilities in California that serve veterans and active duty troops. I commend Senator Nguyen and my colleagues on their legislation that would aid our veterans, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that they become law.”
During the press conference, Vietnam Veteran Don Harper of the American Legion, and Jim Lubey, Executive Director of the National Guard Association of California, provided personal testimonials about the potential impact of these bills on California Veterans.
Pete Conaty of Pete Conaty Associates, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who represents several Veterans groups also expressed his gratitude for Senator Nguyen’s Veterans package by saying “I would like to thank Senator Nguyen for carrying these important bills which will help Veterans find work and address their mental health needs, and recognize the men and women who volunteer to serve our state in the California Military Reserve.”
“My Veterans legislative package, along with the bills introduced by my colleagues today, are a significant step forward in easing the adjustment to civilian life that Veterans face when transitioning out of the military,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “Only by coming together can we get our Veterans the care and services they rightly earned. I hope all of my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly will recognize the value of these proposals and will stand with our Military Veterans.”
Senator Nguyen’s bills, SB 409 and SB 411, are scheduled to be heard by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on Tuesday, March 28. SB 410 will be heard by the same committee on April 25.