Governor Bobby Jindal signed two new laws today that will help support members of the military and their families: HB 732 by Representative Henry Burns to require the streamlining of professional licensing for military personnel and their spouses seeking employment in Louisiana, and HB 977, also by Representative Burns, to expand eligibility to receive funding from the Military Family Assistance Fund. Both HB 732 and HB 977 are part of the Governor's 2012 legislative package.
Governor Jindal said, "We are eternally indebted to the courageous soldiers and their families who have made incredible sacrifices on behalf of our nation. These brave men and women have asked for nothing in return for their service, and it is critical for us to do everything in our power to thank them for their sacrifices. As Memorial Day nears, the holiday is a great reminder to thank the heroes who put their lives on the line in the name of our freedom."
HB 732 establishes procedures for military families that credit specialized training received in the military or non-military licenses issued to military spouses in other states into equivalent non-military licenses and certifications in Louisiana. This will speed up the transfer of professional licenses and certifications from other states when active servicemen and their families are relocated by the military to Louisiana. To ensure no delay after relocation, the bill also provides for temporary licenses for active servicemen and their families under which they may practice until a full license is obtained.
HB 977 expands eligibility to the Military Family Assistance Fund that 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 Fund to the Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA), and since that time the LDVA has awarded more than $400,000 in financial assistance to about 2,750 Louisiana National Guardsman and Reservists.
Prior to the Governor's signature of HB 977, the minimum qualifications for the Military Family Assistance Fund stated that financial hardships incurred by Guardsman 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 up for active duty, which causes a direct financial hardship. This new law expands eligibility to include additional indirect causes for hardship. For example, a Military Reservist away from home on active-duty may be unable to perform emergency or unexpected maintenance to his home; under this legislation, home maintenance repairs and subsequent financial hardship that was indirectly caused by military activation would be eligible for reimbursement from the Fund.
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:
This year, Governor Jindal signed HB 945 by Representative Henry Burns to extend TOPS eligibility for students that voluntarily re-enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Also this year, Governor Jindal signed HB 590 by Representative Karen St. Germain to extend the exemption veterans currently have for the payment of fees to obtain a driver's license to also include special identification cards.
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.