|Posted:||May 3, 2019 02:54 PM|
|From:||Representative Michael H. Schlossberg|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Expanding state benefits to more veterans|
|The men and women who served our nation in uniform put their lives on the line for us. They took an oath to protect our nation from harm and to follow the orders of the commanding officers. We welcome them home from combat or competition of service, thanking them publicly for their service. Still, Pennsylvania deprives some of our veterans of the benefits for education assistance, pension and real estate tax exemption. It is time to expand access to these programs and benefits to veterans whose discharge is not classified as “honorable” or “dishonorable.”
There are more than 820,000 veterans in Pennsylvania, but many of them lack access to state programs and benefits because of their discharge status. While most Americans may be aware of honorable and dishonorable discharges, they may not know that a military separation can come with other designations that fit neither category.
Current law restricts access to certain state veterans’ programs and benefits to those with an honorable discharge. This restriction excludes veterans with administrative discharges designated as other-than-honorable and general. Many of these veterans already lack access to VA programs, and they are seven times more likely to be homeless than veterans who receive health care services or other benefits from the VA.
These veterans may have been dismissed for minor infractions, which are often attributable to undiagnosed mental disorders or illnesses like traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress injuries, commonly called PTSI or PTSD. Veterans who identify as LGBT have been excluded because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, victims of sexual assault have been other-than-honorably discharged for reporting what happened to them, and service members who are persons of color are twice as likely to face disciplinary action. Discrimination or minor transgressions should not prevent veterans from accessing the benefits they have earned.
This legislation will expand access to six veterans’ programs and benefits to veterans with discharges that are not classified as “honorable” or “dishonorable.” These include the Educational Assistance Program, veterans preference in public service, the Amputee and Paralyzed Veteran’s Pension, the Blind Veteran’s Pension, the Educational Gratuity Program, and the Disabled Veterans’ Real Estate Tax Exemption. Upon passage, thousands of Pennsylvania veterans who have served their country would become eligible for these crucial tools to help integrate them into a healthy, productive post-military life.
Please join me in supporting this important legislation.
Introduced as HB1460