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Ragan: Thanking our veterans and servicemembers everyday

From Senator Amanda Ragan –

As we take time this Memorial Day to honor America’s servicemembers and veterans, we can be proud of the steps we’re taking here in Iowa to express our thanks year-round. This support is more important than ever as record numbers of Iowa soldiers return home after lengthy overseas service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the Legislature, I serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, where we ensure bipartisan work toward meeting the needs of those who serve. Each year, we explore opportunities to support Iowa veterans and their families, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, and help returning servicemembers make a smooth transition back to civilian life.

This year’s successes for our veterans, servicemembers and their families include:

• Ensuring returning soldiers get promised help with their college tuition by investing in the Iowa National Guard tuition assistance program. (SF 2321)

• Helping veterans buy a home of their own in Iowa by providing home-buying assistance. (SF2336)

• Establishing a “Post-Traumatic Stress and Dual Diagnosis Center” at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown to provide long-term care to Iowans suffering from combat-related post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. (SF 2245)

• Expanding eligibility for the Iowa National Guard Civil Relief Act so that Iowans on active duty won’t have to worry about lease termination, eviction, or the disconnection of gas, electric and other services. (SF 2097)

• Eliminating the waiting list of veterans who need emergency assistance for such things as home repairs, urgent medical or dental care, and other pressing needs, by putting more money into the Veterans Trust Fund. (HF 2466)

• Opening doors to employment by allowing the Iowa Department of Transportation to waive the driving skills test for a Commercial Driver’s License if a returning servicemember has proper training and work experience from their time in the military. (HF 2403)

• Allowing Iowa military veterans to request their veteran status be noted on their Iowa driver’s license or state ID card, which will make applying for veterans benefits more straightforward. (SF 2112)

• Making it easier for a veteran to receive a six-month extension of their driver’s license by showing their Department of Defense common access card or a certificate of release from active duty. (HF 2404)

• Preserving the stories of the citizen soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, which has already collected 1,200 video oral histories of those who served in earlier conflicts. (SF 2316)

• Clarifying requirements for 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. (SF 2244)

• Allowing the Veterans Trust Fund to provide loans to help build the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. The money will be paid back by federal grants, and the trust fund will not decrease. (HF 2402)

• Allowing veterans to purchase an interment space for themselves and their spouse, if space is available, and allowing the surviving spouse to purchase space in the cemetery where the veteran is interred. (HF 2264)

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