Committee Approves Bill to Expand Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans

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The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment today that would expand property tax relief for Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans.

Senate Bill 92, a measure introduced by Senator Elder Vogel (R-47) and Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46), would allow for an expansion of the Property Tax Exemption Program for Disabled Veterans.

Currently, an honorably discharged disabled veteran must be 100-percent disabled and have a financial need in order to receive a 100-percent exemption from property taxes. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow veterans determined to be at least 50-percent disabled to receive the tax exemption based on the extent of their disability.

Under that proposal, a 100-percent disabled veteran would continue to be completely exempt from paying property taxes. However, those considered to be 75-percent disabled would then be eligible for a 75-percent exemption and a 50-percent disabled veteran could receive a 50-percent exemption. All veterans – regardless of their disability level – would still have to qualify based on their financial need.

“As our men and women continue to put their lives on the line for our freedom, this measure is another way in which we can say thank you for their sacrifice,” said Senator Vogel.

“The men and women in the military put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom and our way of life every day,” 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.” 

Contact:          Charlie O’Neill            (717) 787-3076          coneill@pasen.gov

                        Colleen Greer              (717) 787-1463           cgreer@pasen.gov

Senate Adopts Mensch Resolution Recognizing 244th Anniversary of U.S. Army’s Founding

Harrisburg –The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) recognizing the 244th anniversary of the founding of the United State Army.

On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress formed the Continental Army as a means for the 13 unified American colonies to fight the forces of Britain, Mensch noted. 

Over the past 244 years, the Army has evolved and grown from this small militia force into the world’s premier fighting force, he said. Today’s Army is made up of more than one million soldiers in active duty, army reserve and National Guard.

“The Army exists to serve the American people, to defend the nation, to protect vital national interests, and to fulfill national military responsibilities,” Mensch said. “This resolution will recognize the Army’s proud defense of our nation, as well as urge all Pennsylvanians to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have served.”

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at PASenatorBobMensch, or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Mark Fetzko, mfetzko@pasen.gov, 717-787-3110

Senate Passes “Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families”

New Benefit for Families of Guard Members

 

Today, the Senate of Pennsylvania unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Regan that would create the Military Family Educational Program, or “Pennsylvania GI Bill for Families.”

Senate Bill 589 would amend the State’s Military Code by establishing a new program providing 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 National Guard.  Since then, over 50,000 Army and Air Guard members have taken advantage of this program.  In return, our Pennsylvania National Guard — the second largest in the nation — has remained strong, both at home and abroad.  Pennsylvania’s program was the first in the nation and has been replicated across the states.

The 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 will be administered by PHEAA in conjunction with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and is aimed at increasing the retention rates in the National Guard and attract transitioning military service members to Pennsylvania.

“When a Guard member completes their initial six year enlistment, they are likely to have a started a family and a career,” said Sen. Regan.  “The GI Bill for Families will help incentivize the Guard member to re-up for another six years.  Furthermore, 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.”

Senate Bill 589 now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration. 

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

Senate Committees hold Joint Hearing on Services to Elderly Veterans

Today the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services, chaired by Senator Randy Vulakovich and Senator Lisa Baker, respectively, held a Joint Hearing on Veterans Homes and Living Independently for the Elderly – or LIFE – Program.

Testimony was heard from the PA Department of Military & Veterans Affairs’ Bureau of Veterans Affairs, which operates Pennsylvania’s six Veterans Homes, and two LIFE Programs, which is run through the Medical Assistance Program and provides a comprehensive array of health and support services to qualified seniors who face health challenges that threaten their continued ability to live independently in the community.

The Bureau of Veterans Affairs highlighted that they started a networking initiative with organizations around the state that provide services to seniors in order to build relationships, better exchange information, and improve services.  The Department will soon be starting an Adult Day Care Pilot at the Southeast Veterans Home, to provide seniors an option short of living at the Home.  And they are looking at partnering with county homes to see if they can establish a “veteran’s wing,” as opposed to building a brand new veterans home.

The Department of Human Services provided written testimony which noted that LIFE Programs cover 52 counties.  Essentially, each LIFE Program has a day center located in a community that is staffed by doctors, nurses and other health professionals.  To be eligible, one must be aged 55, financially eligible for Medicaid or be able to pay privately.  Seniors can see their doctor or nurse, receive physical, occupational, speech, or cognitive therapy and counseling, and participate in recreational and cultural activities.  Two representatives of the LIFE Program, from the east and western parts of the state, testified about the services they provide to seniors and potential to save a great deal of money for every individual that does not enter a veteran’s home.  The LIFE representatives are very interested in partnering with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“Knowing that everyone would prefer to age and have their final years in their own home, my goal is simply to see if the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs can incorporate the LIFE Program into their offerings to veterans so that more elderly veterans can stay at their home longer,” said Sen. Randy Vulakovich.

“Today’s hearing underscored that LIFE programs represent an exciting opportunity to provide home-based services to our aging veterans,” said Sen. Pat Browne, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 

The full hearing can be viewed at www.senatorvulakovich.com

 

Contact:
John Guyer (Office of Sen. Browne) 717-787-1349 or jguyer@pasen.gov 
Nate Silcox (Office of Sen. Vulakovich) 717-787-6538 or nsilcox@pasen.gov 

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee Approves Five Measures

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved five measures today, according to Committee Chairman Senator Randy Vulakovich.

Senate Bill 575, introduced by Senator Andrew Dinniman, would allow volunteer fire companies to use funds they receive from the State Fire Relief Program to establish Length of Service Award Programs, a system to provide tax-deferred income benefits to active volunteer members of a fire service.

“Across the Commonwealth, volunteer fire companies are having difficulty recruiting and retaining volunteers,” said Sen. Vulakovich.  “This legislation would provide a source of funding for the establishment of a key retention tool.”

Senate Bill 933, introduced by Senator Lisa Baker, directs any fines collected as a result of a violation of Pennsylvania’s “Stolen Valor” statute to the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Trust Fund.

“Last year, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law legislation that makes it an offense to wear a uniform and insignia in order to misrepresent one’s military service or honors,” said Sen. Vulakovich.  “This legislation would redirect any future fines from this offense into the State Veterans Trust Fund — for real veterans in need of assistance.”

Senate Bill 1079, sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks, makes online training more readily available to current and prospective firefighters.

“Training to become a volunteer firefighter is not easy,” said Sen. Vulakovich.  “Providing them with online training – where possible – will help make it easier.”

Senate Resolution 394, introduced by Senator Pat Browne, designates Pennsylvania as a Purple Heart State and recognizing August 7, 2018, as “Purple Heart Day” in Pennsylvania.

“The Purple Heart is a Combat Decoration and it is our nation’s oldest military medal – created in 1782 by General George Washington,” said Sen. Vulakovich.  “By designating Pennsylvania a ‘Purple Heart State’ will help draw more attention to the men and women who were wounded or died in combat.”

House Bill 980, introduced by Representative Karen Boback, excludes all veterans’ benefit payments from income limitation calculations for any state program, such as PACE and PACENET.

“This legislation is one more way we can thank a veteran – particularly a disabled veteran – by making them eligible for important state programming, without including their veterans benefits as a part of their income,” said Sen. Vulakovich.

Each of these measures now go before the full Senate for further consideration.

 

Contact:         Nate Silcox     (717) 787-6538                       nsilcox@pasen.gov

Senate Recognizes Anniversary of Vietnam War

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This week the Senate adopted a Resolution introduced by Senator Randy Vulakovich proclaiming March 29, 2018, as “Vietnam War Day” in Pennsylvania.

The United States is currently in the midst of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, which lasted from November 1, 1955 until May 15, 1975.  November 1, 1955 was the designation of Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam, and May 15, 1975 marked the end of the battle precipitated by the seizure of the SS Mayaguez.  In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognized March 29th as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. 

Senator Vulakovich, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, said, “March 29th is the day that the last of our troops left Vietnam in 1973.  With 325,208 Pennsylvanians having served in Vietnam, 3,147 of whom lost their lives, and 90 still unaccounted for, it is appropriate that Pennsylvania pay tribute today to the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War.  Let us offer a special prayer of gratitude to those men and women who served in Southeast Asia and never forget those whose dreams were left unfulfilled.”

In May, The Wall the Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial, will be on display at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.  The Wall that Heals will be staged on the South Lawn of the Capitol, in front of the Irvis Office Building.  It will be accessible to the public 24 hours from May 9th through 13th.  A public opening ceremony will take place on May 9th at 7:00 p.m. more information, please go to:  www.legis.state.pa.us/TWTH/.

Contact:  Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538

More information about state issues is available at Senator Vulakovich’s website, www.senatorvulakovich.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SenatorRandyVulakovich.

Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approves Constitutional Amendment to Expand Property Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans

Today the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved a constitutional amendment that would expand property tax relief for Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans, according to Committee Chairman Senator Randy Vulakovich.

Senate Bill 239, legislation introduced by Senator Vulakovich and Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) which would expand the Property Tax Exemption Program for Disabled Veterans, was amongst three measures the Committee considered.

Currently, an honorably discharged disabled veteran must be 100-percent disabled and have a financial need in order to receive a 100-percent exemption from property taxes. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow veterans determined to be at least 50-percent disabled to receive the tax exemption based on the extent of their disability.  Under that proposal, a 100-percent disabled veteran would continue to be completely exempt from paying property taxes. However, those considered to be 75-percent disabled would then be eligible for a 75-percent exemption and a 50-percent disabled veteran could receive a 50-percent exemption. All veterans – regardless of their disability level – would still have to qualify based on their financial need.

“As our men and women continue to put their lives on the line for our freedom, this measure is another way in which we can say thank you for their sacrifice,” said Senator Vulakovich.

The Committee also reported Senate Bill 1021, a measure introduced by Senators John Yudichak (D-14) that would provide a limited-time opportunity for certain amputee or paralyzed veterans to apply for the state’s Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans’ Pension, which provides a benefit of $150 per month to eligible veterans.  Act 180 of 2014 increased this program’s eligibility requirements in order to reduce program costs. However, the Act did not allow sufficient time to ensure that all veterans were able to complete their applications before the changes became effective. Senate Bill 1021 would provide a 90-day period for eligible veterans to submit an application to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The Committee will also reported Senate Bill 1041, a measure introduced by Senator Bartolotta that directs the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create logos to be used to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses.  This proposal mirrors a successful program currently being utilized in the state of Wisconsin. 

“Last session, we passed legislation exempting veterans-owned business from start-up fees,” said Sen. Vulakovich.  “This bill builds on those efforts to assist veterans in getting set up in the marketplace.”

Finally, the Committee approved Senate Resolution 260, a measure introduced by Senator Vulakovich to extend the term of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission from June 30 to November 30, 2018.  The Commission, made up of legislators, first responders and representatives from municipalities, is studying issues affecting first responders. The Commission is charged with providing its findings and recommendations to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committees.

“The Commission has only been able to meet on a couple of occasions so far and in order for it to fully do its job, it will need additional time to deliberate and make its recommendations,” Senator Vulakovich said.

Each of these measures now go before the full Senate for its consideration.

 

Contact:         Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538    nsilcox@pasen.gov

Bartolotta Bills Benefitting Veterans Advance in Committee

HARRISBURG – Two bills sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) to benefit Pennsylvania veterans were approved today by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Senate Bill 239, which Bartolotta sponsored along with Committee Chair Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-38), would amend the state Constitution to expand the Property Tax Exemption Program for disabled veterans. The measure would provide an exemption for veterans who are considered at least 50 percent disabled and demonstrate a financial need.

The program currently only covers veterans who are 100 percent disabled and have a financial need. The senators’ bill would provide a property tax exemption that corresponds to the veteran’s level of disability, so a veteran who is considered 50 percent disabled would be exempt from 50 percent of property taxes.

“The men and women in the military put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom and our way of life every day,” 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.”

The committee also approved Senate Bill 1041, which would direct the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create special logos to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses. Bartolotta said the legislation would serve as a valuable marketing tool to support the entrepreneurial efforts of veterans throughout Pennsylvania.

Both bills were sent to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463

VAEP Committee to Consider Constitutional Amendment to Expand Property Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand property tax relief for Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans, according to Committee Chairman Senator Randy Vulakovich.

Senate Bill 239, legislation introduced by Senator Vulakovich to allow for an expansion of the Property Tax Exemption Program for Disabled Veterans, is among three measures on the agenda for a meeting set for 11 a.m., Tuesday, March 20, in Room 8E-A in the East Wing of the State Capitol Complex.

Currently, an honorably discharged disabled veteran must be 100-percent disabled and have a financial need in order to receive a 100-percent exemption from property taxes. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow veterans determined to be at least 50-percent disabled to receive the tax exemption based on the extent of their disability.

Under that proposal, a 100-percent disabled veteran would continue to be completely exempt from paying property taxes. However, those considered to be 75-percent disabled would then be eligible for a 75-percent exemption and a 50-percent disabled veteran could receive a 50-percent exemption. All veterans – regardless of their disability level – would still have to qualify based on their financial need.

“As our men and women continue to put their lives on the line for our freedom, this measure is another way in which we can say thank you for their sacrifice,” said Senator Vulakovich.

The committee is also scheduled to consider Senate Bill 1021, a measure introduced by Senators John Yudichak and Jay Costa that would provide a limited-time opportunity for certain amputee or paralyzed veterans to apply for the state’s Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans’ Pension, which provides a benefit of $150 per month to eligible veterans.

Act 180 of 2014 increased this program’s eligibility requirements in order to reduce program costs. However, the Act did not allow sufficient time to ensure that all veterans were able to complete their applications before the changes became effective. Senate Bill 1021 would provide a 90-day period for eligible veterans to submit an application to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Also on the Committee agenda is Senate Resolution 260, a measure introduced by Senator Vulakovich to extend the term of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission from June 30 to November 30, 2018.

The Commission, made up of legislators, first responders and representatives from municipalities, is studying issues affecting first responders. The commission is charged with providing its findings and recommendations to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committees.

“The Commission has only been able to meet on a couple of occasions so far and in order for it to fully do its job, it will need additional time to deliberate and make its recommendations,” Senator Vulakovich said.

The Committee will also consider Senate Bill 1041, a measure introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta that directs the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create logos to be used to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses. This proposal mirrors a successful program currently being utilized in the state of Wisconsin. 

Contact:         Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538    nsilcox@pasen.gov

Bartolotta Introduces Two Bills to Expand Economic Opportunities for Veterans

HARRISBURG – Two bills introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) today would help create new business and job opportunities for military veterans.

Under current law, veterans who return to civilian life can face difficulty in finding employment in their chosen field due to licensure and certification requirements for certain careers. Senate Bill 1040 would require state agencies to provide appropriate credit for military service toward licensure and certification requirements.

In current practice, credit is not given for the training and experience gained during military service.

“Our men and women in the military must meet extremely high standards in performing their duties, and the knowledge and experience they gain often translates extremely well to the workforce,” Bartolotta said. “It makes sense for the state to recognize their contributions and provide appropriate credit for their education and experience as they transition to civilian life.”

Bartolotta also introduced Senate Bill 1041, legislation that directs the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create special logos to promote veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses. The legislation would serve as a valuable marketing tool to support the entrepreneurial efforts of veterans throughout Pennsylvania, Bartolotta said.

“Many military veterans have the drive, discipline and leadership to be successful business owners, and Pennsylvania should support the veterans who take the leap into owning their own business,” Bartolotta said. “Developing a special logo to draw attention to their service to our country is one way that we can support their dream.”

The proposal mirrors a successful program that was implemented in Wisconsin.

 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463