Gov. Rick Perry today emphasized Texas' commitment to its veterans at the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Mid-Winter Round Up.
"Texas has a deep appreciation for the men and women who don the uniform of our country and risk their lives for our freedom, and that appreciation continues after they return home," Gov. Perry said. "We must ensure our veterans return from the field of battle to live a life of dignity, with the opportunity to find their place in our economy and access to the services they were promised when they joined up."
Gov. Perry is committed to providing services to help our veterans, especially those men and women returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, transition into civilian life. In November, the governor responded to a backlog of more than 39,000 pending disability and health benefit claims at Veterans Administration regional offices by funding a 12-person Claims Processing Assistance Team (CPAT) within the Texas Veterans Commission. To date the CPAT, has assisted in over 1,400 cases and has 866 cases ready for action by the VA.
Additionally, the governor worked with the Legislature and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to secure an additional $5 million to supplement the $1.2 million from the state budget to expand mental health treatment and support programs for veterans and their families. This additional funding has been made available to local mental health authorities in grants of up to $245,000 to help with programs such as vet-to-vet peer support groups, family education and trauma therapy.
In the last legislative session, Gov. Perry signed SB 297, which provides in-state tuition for veterans who are eligible for federal education benefits, and to their spouses and children. The bill also provides a tuition exemption for dependent children with a parent who is a Texas resident deployed on active duty overseas. The governor also signed SB 93, which makes important changes to the Hazelwood Act allowing eligible veterans, their children and spouses to receive an exemption from the payment of tuition and most fees for up to 150 semester credit hours of state-supported classes at colleges and universities.
Gov. Perry also touted the Texas Veterans Leadership Program, which provides employment and training services, resources and referrals to veterans.