Senate Approves Robinson Plan to Ensure the Proper Upkeep of Veteran Graves

(HARRISBURG) – A plan by Senator Devlin Robinson (R-37) to ensure the proper upkeep of the graves of Pennsylvania veterans was unanimously approved today by the state Senate.

“We have been given a lifelong ticket to the American way of life because of soldiers who have come before us paid for it with their blood, sweat and tears – and often, their limbs and their lives,” Senator Robinson said. “The flags placed on the graves of our veterans are an important way to honor those who have served our Commonwealth and nation, and this legislation improves this act of remembrance.”

Under current law, counties are required to place a U.S. flag on the graves of all honorably discharged veterans. Robinson’s bill enhances that by requiring cemeteries to remove these flags when they become worn after Veterans Day and Independence Day as part of the normal course of maintenance and also allows for a family member to remove and keep the flag.

“This Senate action today ensures greater communication between cemeteries, local veterans’ organizations and county commissioners currently required to provide the flags,” Senator Robinson said.

Senator Robinson’s bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

Contact: Elizabeth Weitzel

Senate Committee Passes Bill to Offer Disabled Veterans Property Tax Relief

HARRISBURG – Legislation authored by Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Elder Vogel (R-47) that would expand property tax relief for Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Senate Bill 578 is a constitutional amendment that would expand the state’s Property Tax Exemption program to the unmarried surviving spouse upon the death of an eligible veteran provided that the State Veterans’ Commission determines such person is in need of the exemption.

Currently, honorably discharged veterans must be 100% disabled and have a financial need to receive a 100% exemption from property taxes.

The measure also eliminates the “War Time” Clause so that the injury does not have to occur during a war for a veteran to be eligible for the exemption. Additionally, the legislation ensures that a veteran’s primary residence is still exempt while he or she is in a long-term care facility and excludes compensation for an injury from the calculation of income.  

“The men and women in the military put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom and our way of life every day,” Senator Bartolotta said. “Veterans who suffer a lifelong disability and financial difficulties as a result of their service deserve to be included in the property tax exemption program.” 

“During the summer, especially on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, we as a nation and a Commonwealth are reminded of the service and sacrifice of the men and women who gave so much to preserve our freedom and our way of life,” Senator Vogel said. “That debt of gratitude is not limited to just holidays and special events. It is a debt we can never adequately repay. This bill recognizes those who endured injuries while in uniform and truly deserves the support of my colleagues and should be sent to the governor’s desk as soon as possible.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACTColleen Greer (Bartolotta’s Office), 717-787-1463
                        Nate Troupe (Vogel’s Office), ntroupe@pasen.gov

Bill Would Ensure Disabled Veterans Receive Property Tax Exemptions

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Recognizing the sacrifices made by Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans, Senator Joe Pittman (R-41) is drafting legislation to ensure they receive the state property tax exemption they deserve.

Senator Pittman’s bill amends an existing state program that provides real estate tax exemptions to honorably discharged veterans who are 100-percent disabled, served during war service dates set by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and have a financial need.

Senator Pittman’s measure would exempt some federal funds provided to veterans from being considered as “income” for eligibility purposes. This would include funds for everyday functioning, caregiving, medication management and renovations to their residence to accommodate their disability.

“This is an issue that an Indiana County resident brought to my attention. He and other disabled veterans were barred from receiving property tax exemptions solely because the federal money that helped them meet basic needs pushed them over the state’s income limit,” Senator Pittman said. “That’s not right and that’s why I am drafting this legislation to exclude federal veteran’s disability benefits from the calculation of income.”

Senator Pittman’s bill will also eliminate the wartime service requirement for the property tax exemption.

“Regardless of when they served, the men and women who have become 100-percent disabled due to their military service have made a great sacrifice and they deserve this benefit,” Senator Pittman said. “It is only appropriate that we honor those who have sacrificed so much through their service to this great nation and our Commonwealth.”

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Contact:
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clogue@pasen.gov

Senate Panel Supports Pension Increase for Wounded Veterans

HARRISBURG – The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved a bill today to increase pensions for the Blind Veterans Pension Program and the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

The pension programs serve Pennsylvania veterans who suffered service-connected injuries or diseases that resulted in loss of vision, paralysis, or the loss of two or more extremities.

Under the programs, recipients are eligible for a monthly pension payment of $150. Senate Bill 276 would increase these pension payments to $180.

“The veterans who benefit from these programs suffered terrible injuries while fighting for our freedoms and our safety,” Ward said. “We owe them a debt that can never be repaid. Increasing pensions that have remained stagnant for 20 years is the least we can do to honor their service and sacrifice.”

The two programs served more than 2,000 Pennsylvania veterans last year. The last pension increase for the programs was in 1999.

Senate Bill 276 was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

Senate Committee Approves New Marketing Tool for Veteran-Owned Businesses

HARRISBURG – The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee passed a bill today that would provide a valuable new marketing tool for businesses owned by veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Senate Bill 957 would direct the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to create special logos to promote veteran-owned businesses. The DMVA would also be charged with development of the application and necessary criteria to receive the designation, as well as verification of military status of the business owners seeking a logo. An individual who fraudulently holds him or herself out to be a veteran for the purpose of obtaining this designation commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.

The proposal mirrors a successful program currently being utilized in the state of Wisconsin.

“Many veterans throughout the state have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and we should find new ways to support their efforts to create jobs in our communities,” Bartolotta said. “This is another way that we can offer our thanks to the brave men and women who have served our country – by supporting their dreams of owning a thriving business.”

The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

Senators Regan & Killion and Representatives Barrar & Quinn Hold Discussion on Veterans Suicide

Yesterday, Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland & York), Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware), Representative Steve Barrar (R-Chester & Delaware) and Representative Chris Quinn (R-Delaware) held a Roundtable Discussion regarding the issue of Veterans Suicide at the Concord Township Municipal Building, in Delaware County.

“The statistics are staring directly at us in the face — with twenty-two veterans committing suicide each day and with veterans suicide twice the rate of the general population,” said Sen. Regan, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “I was pleased to be joined by Senator Killion, Representative Barrar and Representative Quinn in southeastern PA — talking with area professionals that are dealing with veterans and their issues on an every-day basis.  As we soon wrap up our Roundtables in November, we will start acting on legislation to address Veterans Suicide.”

“I thank Chairman Regan for coming to Delaware County,” said Sen. Killion.  “I was pleased to participate in this important discussion.  Veterans who have risked their lives so that we may live in peace and freedom are owed our eternal gratitude.  We also owe them a debt to do all within our ability to address and remedy the physical and psychological toll their service has taken on them.”

“Mental health care for our veteran community is a top priority for myself and the House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, which I chair,” said Rep. Barrar.  “We must remain vigilant on ways to partner with the Federal VA and the private sector to provide quality and accessible mental healthcare for our veterans.  We owe this to our veterans and their families.  We, the citizens of this commonwealth and country, truly are the beneficiaries of their great sacrifices.”

“I want to thank Senator Regan for hosting this roundtable to bring awareness and action upon such a pressing issue,” said Rep. Quinn.  “There was valuable testimony across the board from veterans organizations and county, local, state and federal personnel.  These heroes who are taking their own lives are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives. Our veterans have served our nation proudly. We owe it to them to use this information provided and support them in any way possible.”

The legislators, along with Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, were joined by officials from the Coatesville VA, PA Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, PA Department of Corrections, PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs, PA Department of Human Services, and the Chester and Philadelphia County Veterans Affairs Offices, along with representatives of the Berks Counseling Center, Family Service Association of Bucks County, Veterans Multi-Service Center, and Volunteers of America.

The group discussed federal, state, and local efforts to combat Veterans Suicide and how best to coordinate efforts.  Specific items mentioned were the national Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255), navigating the host of services to available to veterans, Public Service Announcements to help change the stigma associated with veterans seeking help, more comprehensive post-deployment/re-acclimation periods, as well as additional VA Vet Centers, County Veterans Courts, Veterans Service Units in Prisons and Veterans Services Officers, all in order to get veterans the services they need.

This was the fifth of six Roundtable Discussions that Senator Regan plans to hold.  A final Roundtable will be held in November in the Lehigh Valley.

Please click HERE to view the Roundtable.

 

CONTACTS: 

John Kelemen (Senator Killion), 215-459-2800 jkelemen@pasen.gov
Rene Morrow (Representative Quinn), 717-260-6273 rmorrow@pahousegop.com
Donna Pinkham (Representatives Barrar), 717-260-6452 Dpinkham@pahousegop.com
Nate Silcox (Senator Regan), 717-787-8524 nsilcox@pasen.gov

Scarnati Legislation to Repurpose PA’s Lieutenant Governor’s Residence for Veterans & Active Military Passes Committee

(HARRISBURG) – Today the Senate State Government Committee unanimously passed legislation to require that the Lt. Governor’s residence be used to support veterans and active military, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati explained that Senate Bill 750 was originally introduced to sell the Lt. Governor’s residence.  However due to potential restrictions preventing civilians from accessing the property, SB 750 was amended in Committee.

As amended, Senate Bill 750 now requires the Department of General Services to transfer the authority over the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to be used for the purposes of supporting Pennsylvania’s veterans programs and supporting the National Guard, including current and survivor families.

“As public servants, it is our duty to continually look for ways that government can operate more effectively and efficiently,” Scarnati said.  “Given that Pennsylvania’s current Lieutenant Governor does not reside at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, now is the time to transfer this property to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs so it can be used to maximize the beneficial use of supporting our Pennsylvania veterans and active military.  Taxpayer dollars should not be used to simply maintain a building that no one lives in.”

Scarnati explained that the Lieutenant Governor’s residence is a three story, 2,400 square foot house located at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. Scarnati also noted that across the country, Pennsylvania is the only state that provides a residence to its Lieutenant Governor.

Senate Bill 750 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.           

CONTACT:   Kate Flessner – (717) 787-7084

Pennsylvania Honors Purple Heart Recipients on August 7th

Aug. 7, 2019 – Pennsylvania – Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Representative Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks) announced that August 7th has been designated as Purple Heart Day in Pennsylvania to recognize the sacrifices of those who were wounded or killed in service to their country as members of the United States Military.

The day is also designed to bring greater public awareness of the medal and its significance.

The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to military veterans who were wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States. The Medal was initially established as the Badge of Merit by George Washington in 1782, and is the oldest military award still given to military members.

During major wars from World War I to the present, 32,080 Pennsylvania veterans were killed in combat and more than 59,000 were wounded, making these Pennsylvanians eligible to receive the Purple Heart Medal.

“The liberty and freedoms we enjoy as Americans have been secured by the selfless sacrifices of those who have served in our nation’s military,” Senator Browne said. “It is important that we recognize and pay homage to these extraordinary sacrifices by our country’s brave men and women. It was an honor to work with Representative Mackenzie and the Military Order of the Purple Heart to establish this Day of recognition.”

“I am hopeful the designation of Purple Heart Day will encourage people all across Pennsylvania to take a moment to think about the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered injuries or given their lives for our protection and our freedom,” said Mackenzie. 

Browne and Mackenzie worked closely with the Pennsylvania Military Order of the Purple Heart in establishing this day. The Military Order of the Purple Heart, an organization created in 1932 by an act of Congress for U.S. war veterans, strives to foster an environment of goodwill among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support legislative initiatives and provide services to all veterans and their families. 

“First, I would like to thank Senator Pat Browne and Representative Ryan Mackenzie for their work in making the Purple Heart day possible for all the Veterans, like myself, who wear the Purple Heart Medal proudly,” Frank Bokan, Commander of the Pennsylvania and

Lehigh Valley Chapter #190 Military Order of the Purple Heart, said. “I think I speak for all the Combat Wounded Veterans, that it makes me proud to know Pennsylvania has not forgotten its wounded veterans. I like to think the veterans killed in action and the Purple Heart veterans who have passed away are smiling down on us today and are sharing this moment with us. I sincerely hope all Pennsylvanians take a moment on Purple Heart Day, August 7 of every year, to remember the Men and Woman who have shed their blood, and are still doing so, so we may enjoy our freedoms.”

Purple Heart Day was established by the adoption of Senate Resolution 169, sponsored by Browne, and House Resolution 391, sponsored by Mackenzie. These resolutions also designate Pennsylvania as a “Purple Heart State.” Across the United States, 23 other states have honored their combat wounded and military veterans killed in action by obtaining the Purple Heart designation with the hope of raising awareness of the many sacrifices made by our military members.

Contact:

Matt Szuchyt (Senator Browne)                                      610-821-8468, mszuchyt@pasen.gov

Tricia Lehman (Representative Mackenzie)               717-772-9840, tlehman@pahousegop.com  

Frank Bokan (Military Order of the Purple Heart)                                          boksite@ptd.net

 

Governor Signs “Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families”

 

New Benefit for Families of Guard Members 

HARRISBURG – Today, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law legislation championed by Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland and York) that would create the Military Family Educational Program, or “Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families.”

House Bill 1324the companion measure to Senator Regan’s Senate Bill 589 – provides five years worth of higher education benefits to the spouse and/or children of a Pennsylvania National Guard member who commits to serve another six years.

In 1996, Pennsylvania established the National Guard Educational Assistance Program.  This Program provides men and women a free college education – based on the tuition rate at the State System of Higher Education – in exchange for a six-year commitment in the Pennsylvania National Guard.  Since then, nearly 2,500 a year have taken advantage of this program. 

“The Educational Assistance Program is working just fine and has helped make Pennsylvania the second largest Guard force in the nation, at 18,500 members,” said Sen. Regan, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.  “However, the Guard is having issues with retaining its senior officers.  In order for us to maintain a strong National Guard over the next several decades, it is important that we retain these citizen soldiers beyond their first enlistment.  The Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families will help in this cause.”

The Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families will enable men and women in the Guard to earn educational benefits for their spouse and/or children after completing their first service obligation and committing to serve an additional six years.  This legislation, which was proposed by Governor Tom Wolf during his Budget Address, will be administered by PHEAA in conjunction with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Knowing that the military is not just an individual commitment but a family commitment, this legislation supports our National Guard families, who are called on to sacrifice when their spouse or parent is training once a month or deployed.”

Contact:  Taylor Wamsher, 717-787-8524, twamsher@pasen.gov

Senate Passes DiSanto Adoption Bill and Veterans Health Choices Resolution

HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Senate today unanimously approved Senator John DiSanto’s (Dauphin/Perry) legislation that will re-establish adoption subsidies for foster youth as well as a resolution urging the federal government to improve and reform the delivery of health care for veterans.

SB 669, introduced by DiSanto, reinstates the Kinship Care and Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program. These programs encourage and promote the placement of children who haven’t found permanent adoptive homes.

“My legislation ensures federal adoption subsidies continue to support aunts, uncles, and grandparents who have stepped up to raise a family member,” said DiSanto. “Kinship care promotes a stable home life and permanency for young people who grew up in the foster care system and maintains important family connections.”

The Senate also approved SR 140, a resolution urging the United States Congress to oversee the successful implementation of the VA MISSION Act of 2018. This legislation was enacted to provide timely access to the highest quality of healthcare for our veterans. The VA MISSION Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to consolidate community care programs, expand eligibility for the VA Family Caregiver Program, and improve the VA’s ability to train, recruit, and retain the best health care providers.

“Pennsylvania is home to nearly one million men and women who have served,” DiSanto said. “The VA MISSION Act is supported by national veterans’ service organizations and is essential to ensuring our veterans receive the quality and timely care they were promised when they put on the uniform.”

SB 669 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration while SR 140 will be transmitted to the President of the United States and the Congress. 

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801