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Veterans, Legislative Update

CSCVC:  The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the Legislature, however business has been progressing with legislators, staff, consultants, and lobbyists working from home, teleconferencing, and meeting apps like Zoom. The Legislature has a constitutional requirement to pass a state budget and deliberate on the business of the people and the 2020 legislative year will go on. However, the impact that the pandemic has the state will certainly set the tone of debate for rest of the year.

Senate leadership is asking Senators to “reconsider their priorities and reduce the number of bills they carry accordingly”. The Senate Leader has also directed policy committees to compile a list of issues within their jurisdiction that need immediate attention as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assembly leadership is leaving it to the committees to decide which bills will be heard that will best respond to the crisis. Currently, the Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on May 4th.

There will still be important legislation concerning veterans, the National Guard, CalVet, and the military Families continuing to move through the process. The County Veterans Service Officers have been informed that their request for an increase in state funding to help veterans obtain their VA benefits will continue to be pursued within the state budget process.  Senator Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera) agrees that CVSO funding is important and he has agreed to push for this funding in the Senate budget process.  The CVSOs will be asking veterans service organizations for their support and help in this effort, which was done in years past.

We are still getting reports of which veterans and military related bills will continue to move forward. Here is a list of bills we have compiled so far which will continue to need your support.  We have submitted letters of support on your behalf for all the bills you have taken official positions on and we are continuing to coordinate our efforts with CSCVC leadership and each member org’s legislative chairs.

Veterans legislation continuing to move through the legislative process:

AB 1935-Voepel; Suicide study, women veterans.

Assemblyman Voepel has requested support for his bill AB 1935, which seeks to direct the California Department of Veteran Affairs to conduct a study to attempt to determine why female veterans Suicide rates are so high. The measure asks to the Department to report its findings to the California State Legislature.

AB 2046-Voepel; Disability Garnishment.

Assemblyman Voepel’s office has just informed us that they will still be seeking to advance this bill. Under current law, government child support agencies cannot attach more than 5% of disability income if the obligor has less than $2,000 in assets. This protection for very low-income obligators does not apply to veteran’s disability benefits recipients or to collections by private parties. Ab 2046 seeks to equalize the field by protecting disabled veterans in the same way that other non-veteran disabled obligators are protected.

AB 2494-Choi; Veterans transcript.

Assemblyman Choi has asked for support for his bill AB 2494, which seeks to request the UC system to conform to the same rules that the state’s community colleges (CCCs) and state universities (CSUs) regarding the review and creation of transferable credit from Service Member’s Joint Service Transcripts.  In short, the bill will urge the UC’s to award course credit for prior military education, training, and service.

AB 2549-Salas; Licensing.

Assemblyman Rudy Salas is requesting support for his bill, AB 2549, which seeks to aid some military spouses in finding work when their husband or wife is transferred to California. Some spouses are licensed to perform services in other states but can’t engage in that business in this state because of licensing barriers.  AB 2549 seeks to smooth the path for military spouses by adding registered dental assistant and registered dental assistant in extended functions licenses, and all licenses issued by the Dental Hygiene Board, the Board of Pharmacy, and the Board of Accountancy to the program for the temporary licensure process for specified licensed professions for military spouses.  The DoD, Navy, and Marine Corps are working with the author on this bill.

AB 3045-Gray; Licensing.

Assemblyman Gray has requested support for ahis bill AB 3045, which will require most boards under the Department of Consumer Affairs to issue professional licenses to retired veterans and military spouses of active duty service members if they possess a valid and unrestricted license in that profession from another state.

 Military families move 2.4 times as often as civilian families, and this fact is at odds with the trend among licensed professionals to move between states nearly 40% less often than average, in part because of the difficult licensing process. Failure to recognize our veterans’ unique experiences can discourage them from entering or remaining in the labor market and has led to unemployment rates among military spouses nearly four times that of the general population.

SB 907-Archuleta; Military children.

Senator Archuleta is authoring SB 907, which would help the children of military families by improving coordination between on-base Family Advocacy Program (FAP) and county child welfare service (CWS) offices. The bill would require, upon initial intake, county CWS offices to identify military children subject to child abuse and neglect allegations, and would clarify that a county CWS office has the authority to develop memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with local military installation FAP offices to coordinate investigations.

SB 1007-Hueso; Military retirement tax relief.

Senator Ben Hueso from San Diego is authoring SB 1007, which seeks to exclude from the state income tax, income received from retirement pay from the uniformed services.

SB 1018-Chang; Military Veterans Memorial Certificate.

Senator Chang has asked for support on her bill, SB 1018. This bill seeks to establish a Governor’s Memorial Certificate Program. This bill would also require the program to send information accompanying the memorial certificate informing the survivors of a deceased veteran of benefits and services available. One of the real values of this bill is that the survivors will be directed to those who can assist them with any military or veterans benefits they may be eligible for. One CVSO I spoke with this week assisted a widow who was living on $1400 per month and on the way to becoming homeless. The CVSO inquired into her husband’s military history and ended up filing a claim for Agent Orange benefits. That widow was just awarded a monthly VA payment of $1600 per month and a retractive lump sum payment of $190,000. Legislation like the Veterans Driver’s License bill and this bill help reach people who would have never known they were eligible for vet benefits. The legislation that the CSCVC supported in 2014 creating the Vet Driver’s license and required all applicants to visit a CVSO, has resulted in California’s veterans receiving over $179 million in cash benefits.