Governor Bobby Jindal announced a legislative proposal today that will allow more members of the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana Military Reserves and their family members to qualify for funding through the Military Family Assistance Fund.
Governor Jindal said, "We are forever grateful for the courageous soldiers and their families who are making sacrifices in the name of our freedom and values. Expanding eligibility for the Military Family Assistance Fund is the least we can to do support guardsmen, reservists and their families who are serving our country."
"The Military Family Assistance Fund is a tremendous resource for members of the Louisiana National Guard, Military Reservists and their families in their times of need," says Lane Carson, Secretary of Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. "This legislation will help open the Military Family Assistance Fund to more of our brave men and women, ensuring that they do not suffer financially when they are called to serve our state and our nation."
Today, minimum qualifications for the Military Family Assistance Fund state that financial hardships incurred by Guardsmen or Reservists must have been caused as a direct result of their active-duty status. For example, a Guardsman may earn more in his civilian job than he earns when he is called to active duty, which causes a direct financial hardship.
The new proposal would expand eligibility to include additional causes of hardship. For example, when a Military Reservist is away from home serving on active-duty, he may be unable to perform emergency or unexpected maintenance to his home, which results in the need for home maintenance repairs, resulting in a financial hardship that was indirectly caused by military activation.
Representative Henry Burns will author legislation in the House. Rep. Burns said, "The freedom to enjoy the boundless benefits of democracy was paid in full by many Americans in uniform and their families. This legislation allows us to repay and support them in their time of need."
Senator Robert Adley will also author legislation in the Senate. Senator Adley said, "It is always important to assist veterans and their families but especially during times of conflict. Our assistance can come on our shores or in foreign lands, but we need to be there for them."
The Military Family Assistance Fund was established in 2005 to help members of the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana Military Reserves and their family members address financial hardships they may encounter as a result of their active-duty status.
In 2008, Governor Jindal redirected the Louisiana Military Family Assistance Fund to the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA). Since that time, LDVA has awarded more than $400,000 in financial assistance to about 2,750 Louisiana National Guardsmen and Reservists. The Military Family Assistance Fund is completely funded by private donations from individuals and corporations.
Governor Jindal previously announced other initiatives he is pursuing in the upcoming legislative session to support veterans. These proposals include legislation to allow an official "Veteran" designation on the driver's license for Louisiana veterans and legislation to make sure students who delay their TOPS award to serve in the military do no lose their eligibility for voluntarily reenlisting.
Governor Jindal has also proposed legislation to establish procedures for military families that credit specialized training received in the military into equivalent non-military licenses and certifications and to speed up the transfer of professional licenses and certifications from other states when they are relocated by the military to Louisiana. The Governor also announced support for legislation to grant in-state tuition to veterans at Louisiana colleges and universities.
Governor Jindal has taken a number of steps to support active members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families since taking office such as:
In 2008, Governor Jindal signed an Executive Order that made Louisiana the third state to participate in the United States Army Partnership for Youth Success Program that encourages employers, like the state of Louisiana, to recruit former Army active and reserve members;
Governor Jindal created the Louisiana Veterans Honor Medal, and since 2009, more than 30,000 medals have been awarded to Louisiana veterans.
Governor Jindal signed legislation to ensure veterans get the care they deserve by expanding the eligibility requirements of the Louisiana War Veterans Homes to allow the state to serve a greater number of Louisiana veterans. Over 80,000 peacetime Louisiana veterans and their spouses are now eligible for service at the War Veterans Homes.
The Jindal Administration created LAVETBIZ, a program to assist Louisiana veterans who own their own business.
Over the past few years, Veterans Affairs has increased federal compensation and pension payments to Louisiana veterans by $36 million in the last fiscal year. This provides additional benefits to more than 304,000 Louisiana veterans.
Since 2008, the Jindal Administration has increased the presence of service offices with locations now open in every parish across the state. These parish offices provide veterans with local access to trained Veterans Assistance Counselors who help veterans and their families secure the benefits they earned through their military service. Louisiana now ranks 13th in the nation in benefits and compensation payments to veterans on a per capita basis.