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Ragan: Helping veterans return home


This news story was published on April 7, 2012.
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From Senator Amanda Ragan:

Thousands of Iowa soldiers are returning home after lengthy overseas service, including the National Guard’s largest overseas deployment. In the Legislature, we’re working to expand help for our returning combat veterans. The goal is to make their transition back to civilian life as quick and easy as possible.

This week, the Senate sent Senate File 2245 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=SF2245>  to the Governor for his signature. The bill establishes our state’s first “Post-Traumatic Stress and Dual Diagnosis Center” at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

It’s not unusual for soldiers who’ve been in combat to experience some level of post-traumatic stress. Expanded services will ensure they get the intensive, professional care they need close to home. The 12- to 15-bed center, supported primarily by federal funds, will provide long-term care to Iowans suffering from combat-related post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. While existing treatment options are limited to 45 days, veterans will be able to receive more than six months of assistance at the new center.

Here are some other important steps we’ve taken so far this session to help Iowa veterans:

** SF 2007 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=SF2007>  ensures returning National Guard soldiers get promised college tuition assistance by investing an additional $1.3 million in the Iowa National Guard tuition assistance program.

** SF 2097 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=SF2097>  expands eligibility for the Iowa National Guard Civil Relief Act by reducing the required days of active duty from 90 to 30. That means our active duty soldiers won’t have to worry about lease termination, eviction, or the disconnection of gas, electric and other services. The legislation also requires a study on allowing military training to help Iowans qualify for professional or other occupational certifications.

** HF 2403 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=HF2403>  helps returning veterans qualify for jobs by allowing the Iowa Department of Transportation to waive the driving skills test for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) if a service member can prove related active-duty training. The applicant must still pass a knowledge skills test and have a safe driving record to receive a CDL.

** HF 2404 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=HF2404>  makes it easier for a veteran to receive a six-month extension of their Iowa driver’s license. The bill declares that a Department of Defense common access card is proof of current service, and a certificate of release from active duty is satisfactory evidence of previous service and honorable discharge.

** SF 2244 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=SF2244>  clarifies requirements for receiving a grant through the State’s Injured Veterans Grant program. A veteran must be seriously injured or very seriously injured, as defined by the U.S. Department of Defense.

** HF 2264 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=HF2264>  permits veterans and their spouses to be buried together if space is available in a government cemetery. Current law allows only a veteran to purchase an interment space and be interred within the cemetery.

** HF 2402 <http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&amp;Service=Billbook&amp;frame=1&amp;GA=84&amp;hbill=HF2402>  allows money in the Veterans Trust Fund to be used for loans to help build the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. The money will be paid back by federal grants, and the trust fund will not decrease.

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