Legislative Plan for Pennsylvania Veterans and Families
November 20, 2013- Howard Ondick
HARRISBURG- State Senate Democrats announced Tuesday that they're introducing a comprehensive package of legislation intended to help Pennsylvania veterans and their families deal with issues as they return to civilian life from military service.

Our speakers are Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa of Allegheny County, Senator Tim Solobay of Washington County, and Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia.

At a State Capitol news conference Tuesday, Senate Democrats outlined a 23-bill package that’s intended to help veterans and their families deal with issues as they return to civilian life from military service.

The Saluting Pennsylvania Veterans plan contains bills that promote veterans’ education, housing and jobs -- in addition to measures that provide financial assistance, counseling services, and relief for families.  The legislative package is designed to help veterans make a smooth transition from military service to life at home.

As of September 30, there are some 22 million veterans in the United States, including more than 995,000 living in Pennsylvania.

Among other things, the Senate Democratic plan features a $40 million bond issue to provide payments to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars; a pilot peer-to-peer counseling program for veterans to address post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and rising rates of suicide; $20 million for veterans’ housing projects, and veterans’ preference in public housing; housing assistance grants to homeless or imminently homeless veterans and help them with down payments or closing-costs for veterans buying homes; increased funding for Veterans’ Emergency Assistance Program, along with extended deadlines, and expanded maximum Military Family Relief Assistance; doubling educational assistance to help offset fees and costs and increasing the years the assistance is provided; priority for subsidized child care to veterans and families of active duty military; expanded eligibility for veterans in the disabled veterans tax exemption statute; and, a task force to study health-care issues unique to women veterans, including accessibility and quality of  care.

Senate Democrats estimate that the total cost of the Saluting Pennsylvania Veterans plan at $61.1 million.

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