Harrisburg – November 19, 2013 – State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione today joined Senate Democratic colleagues in announcing a series of bills intended to address problems faced by Pennsylvania veterans in their return to civilian life.

“Today’s returning veterans face unique challenges in returning to civilian life after long deployments during a weak recovery from recession,” Tartaglione said. “We have to do more than just thank them for their service.”

Tartaglione, Democratic Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, discussed the legislation, titled “Saluting PA Veterans,” at a Capitol news conference with Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia).

Their plan contains measures intended to help returning veterans with education, housing and jobs, in addition to initiatives that provide monetary assistance, counseling services and financial relief for families.

In the package of bills is a Tartaglione-sponsored measure requiring the state Department of Health to provide training for emergency service providers to help them recognize and treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or brain injury.

“This effort will involve virtually every department of government in making sure veterans and their families are understood and not underserved,” Tartaglione said.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 1 million veterans, more than 100,000 of them having served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.  The unemployment rate among recently returning veterans is above the rate of the civilian population, despite their military training.

The Salute Pa Veterans Plan also includes:

  • $40 million in bonds to provide payments to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
  • A pilot peer-to-peer counseling program for veterans to address post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and rising rates of suicide
  • $20 million for veterans’ housing projects, and  veteran preference in public housing
  • Housing assistance grants to homeless or imminently homeless veterans and help with down payments or closing-costs for veterans buying homes;
  • Increased funding for  Veterans Emergency Assistance Program, along with extended deadlines, and expanded maximum Military Family Relief Assistance
  • Increased veterans’ preference points for civil service examinations, from 10 to 15
  • Priority for subsidized child care to veterans and families of active duty military
  • Expanded eligibility for veterans in the disabled veterans tax exemption statute (i.e., exempting 50% of Social Security and Railroad Retirement Benefits from the calculation)
  • A task force to study health-care issues unique to women veterans, including accessibility and quality of care
  • A call on the U.S. Congress to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs

Senate Democrats had previously introduced several legislative items within the context of their PA Works plan.  These have been incorporated into the Saluting Pa Veterans plan.  These initiatives include:

Development of a training program to help veterans start small businesses; creation of a $5 million veteran-owned businesses loan guarantee; new tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans; new standards to incorporate education and training in the military into education credits to help expedite the obtaining of a degree; doubling of tuition assistance and increasing the years the assistance is provided.

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