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June 30, 2010 Published in From Richmond

New Veterans Services Measures Take Effect Thursday

Highlights 24 Pieces of Legislation to Make Virginia the Most Veteran Friendly State in America
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell today highlighted legislation taking effect July 1st that recognizes his commitment to make Virginia the most Veteran friendly state in America.  Included in this is legislation establishing a Veterans Skills Database, fee waivers for Veterans seeking small business permits, protecting the right to display the American flag at their home, and designating the Honor and Remember Flag as the Commonwealth’s emblem of service and sacrifice.

Speaking about the legislation becoming law on July 1st, Governor McDonnell remarked, “Virginia is home to more than 830,000 veterans and almost 200,000 Virginians are serving in the military around the world.  Our state government must continue to do more to better serve those who have voluntarily protected America for generations past and present.  During the 2010 legislative session we passed 24 pieces of legislation to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in America.  I have tasked Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services Paul Galanti to develop a Veterans Bill of Rights to identify the needs of veterans and their families so we can make sure those needs are met.  I have also asked the Virginia Employment Commission, in cooperation with the Department of Veterans Services and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, to establish a Veterans Skills Database to help market and promote workforce skills to veterans.  We passed legislation protecting a Virginian’s right to fly the American flag on his or her property.  Further, we have designated the Honor and Remember Flag as the Commonwealth’s emblem of service and sacrifice by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, who have given their lives in the line of duty.  The community of veterans and active duty soldiers who call Virginia home deserve our support and recognition to ensure their success in the Commonwealth.”

Commissioner of Veterans Services Paul Galanti also noted, “We are working hard to implement the most affected policies to ensure our veterans and active duty soldiers have the tools they need to be successful at home and continue to choose Virginia as their place of retirement.  The 24 pieces of legislation going into law on Thursday will better equip us with the tools needed to provide Virginia’s veterans with the services they need.”

Veterans Services Laws Taking Effect July 1st:

HB479 (Carrico) – Burial vaults at state-operated veterans cemeteries

Provides burial vaults at cost to eligible veterans and their family members interred at state-operated veterans cemeteries, based on available funding at the Department of Veterans Services.

HB128 (Cox) – Free fishing licenses to disabled, active duty military personnel

Authorizes the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to issue free fishing licenses to disabled, active duty military personnel who are receiving inpatient or outpatient medical treatment from a veterans or military hospital in Virginia, an adjoining state, or the District of Columbia.

SB243 (Watkins) Fishing license; exempts active duty military personnel who are residents

Exempts active duty military personnel who are residents and on leave from having to obtain a basic fishing license so long as they can show proof that they are on leave.

HB956 (Lingamfelter)/ SB151 (Stuart) –  Condominium and Property Owners’ Association Acts; display of U.S. flag

Provides that a unit owners’ or property owner’s association shall not prohibit or otherwise adopt or enforce any policy restricting a unit or lot owner from displaying upon property to which that owner has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use the flag of the United States whenever such display is in compliance with the federal Flag Code. The bill also provides that the unit owners’ or property owners’ association may establish reasonable restrictions as to the size, place, duration, and manner of placement or display of the flag provided the restrictions are necessary to protect a substantial interest of the unit owners’ or property owners’ association. Under the bill in an action brought to enforce a rule pertaining to display of the flag, the unit owners’ or property owners’ association has the burden of proof regarding whether the rule protects a substantial interest of the association.

HB1226 (Tyler) – Adds Global War on Terrorism, etc., to wars that are honored

Adds the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom to the wars that are recognized on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The bill also adds the Global War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom to the wars or conflicts for which a locality may issue permits for the erection of monuments or memorials.

SB55 (Martin)/ HB1235 (Anderson) – Absentee ballots; procedure for various deadlines and ballot requirements

Requires that ballots be prepared and available for absentee voting not later than 45 days before any election rather than 45 days before the November election and 30 days before other elections.  The bill also requires preparation of ballots 45 days in advance of special elections for federal office and allows, if necessary, preparation as soon after that deadline as possible for other special elections.  Various deadlines for nominations and filings are adjusted in response to the ballot preparation change.

SB349 (Hanger) Reemployment rights of members of the Virginia National Guard, State Defense Force, or naval militia

Extends the period in which a member of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Defense Force, or naval militia is required to apply for reinstatement in his former job to 90 days following his release from duty or from hospitalization following release, if the length of the member’s absence by reason of service in the uniformed services exceeds 180 days. If the duration of his absence does not exceed 180 days, such notice must be given within 14 days, which is the current period allowed in all instances regardless of the duration of the absence. This notice period is consistent with that provided under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act for service members deployed for 181 days or longer.

HB1233 (Miller)/ SB613 (Paula/Wampler) – Insurance Coverage of Virginia National Guard Members if called to active duty by Governor

Allows a member of the Virginia National Guard called to state active duty by the Governor to continue his health care coverage, life insurance and long-term care insurance, at the member’s expense.

HB262 (Sherwood/Greason)/ SB255 (Hurst/Stosch) – Exemption from handling fee for veterans opening small business

Exempts veterans from paying the Department of Business Assistance’s handling fee when establishing a small business through the one-stop small business permitting program.

HJ127 (Cosgrove/Sherwood/Hurt) – Honor and Remember Flag; State’s emblem of service and sacrifice by members of U.S. Armed Forces

Designates the Honor and Remember Flag as the Commonwealth’s emblem of service and sacrifice by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in the line of duty.

HB129 (O’Bannon)/ SB31 (Puller) – Constitutional amendment; property tax exemption for certain veterans

Provides for a referendum at the November 2, 2010, election to approve or reject an amendment requiring the General Assembly to provide a real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability.

HB1337 (Lingamfelter) – Veterans Bill of Rights

Requires the Commissioner, in conjunction with the Board of Veterans Services, to establish and implement a compact with Virginia’s veterans, which shall have a goal of making Virginia America’s most veteran-friendly state.  The bill specifies the provisions to be contained in the compact, and requires the Commissioner to include the status and progress of the compact in his annual report.

SB299 (J. Miller) – Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children

Requires the Department of Education to employ a military family education liaison to provide staff support for the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and to assist military families and the state in facilitating the implementation of the Interstate Compact

HB419 (K. Cox) – Electronic processing of disability claims

Requires the Department of Veterans Services to replace its existing case management technology, which replacement is required to support highly sophisticated electronic claims preparation.

HB174 (K. Cox) – Eliminates requirement that Wounded Warrior Program cover only combat injuries

Eliminates the requirement that the Wounded Warrior Program cover only injuries sustained by military service personnel in combat areas.

HB1118 (Stolle)/ SB619 (Herring) – Virginia Military Family Relief Fund

Allows individuals who receive payments from the Virginia Military Family Relief Fund to subtract them from their federal adjustable gross income when calculating their Virginia taxable income, for taxable years beginning on and after January 1, 2010.

HB760 (Stolle) – Veterans Skills Database

Requires the Virginia Employment Commission, in cooperation with the Department of Veterans Services and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, to establish the Veterans Skills Database, an Internet-accessible database of veterans and their workforce skills, for the purpose of marketing and promoting the workforce skills of veterans to potential employers. The database will be free to both veterans and employers.

HB382 (Sherwood) – Burial power of attorney

Provides that when a person dies while on active military duty and has designated an individual to make arrangements for his funeral and disposition of his remains on a U.S. Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data, the designee shall be responsible for making such arrangements.