As Oklahomans remember the men and women who served and are serving the nation's Armed Forces this Memorial Day weekend, Governor Fallin praised efforts at the state Capitol this year to support veterans, military personnel and their families.
"This Memorial Day weekend, I encourage all Oklahomans to take time to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their service keeps our nation free and protects the freedoms we enjoy every day," Fallin said. "Oklahomans have a deep and profound respect for the men and women of our military -- and their families. We can never fully repay the debt of gratitude owed to them, but we can continue to pursue policies that recognize and honor their service."
Today, Governor Fallin today signed into two measures aimed at assisting military veterans, personnel and their families.
House Bill 2689, by Rep. Charlie Joyner and Sen. Jerry Ellis, allows students and dependents of military personnel who are from Oklahoma but stationed outside of the state to receive in-state college tuition. The student will retain in-state status after the military person has been discharged or released for reasons other than dishonorable as long as the student stays continuously enrolled in a program at an institution in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.
House Bill 1985, by Rep. Scott Inman and Sen. Sean Burrage, would require public sector employers to interview veterans who meet the minimum and special qualifications for job openings. HB 1985 does not require the appointment of a veteran or disabled veteran to such positions.
Earlier in the legislative session, Governor Fallin signed into law Senate Bill 1863, by Sen. Steve Russell and Rep. Ann Coody, to allow Oklahoma colleges, university and technology centers to provide academic credit to military veterans, who were honorably discharged in the previous three years, for any applicable education, training and experience received through military duty that pertains to his or her area of study.
In her State of the State address this year, Governor Fallin, along with the Department of Commerce, launched OKJobMatch.com, a site to match job seekers with employers. The site serves as a comprehensive employment resource for returning military men and women who have bravely served us, the governor said.
The governor also appointed nine members to the War Veterans Commission, the controlling board of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA). Recently, the department has come under scrutiny for allegations of mistreatment of residents at the state's veterans centers.
The governor gave each of her appointments to the War Veterans Commission the mandate to pursue necessary changes to improve the quality of service at ODVA facilities.
"Our veterans deserve nothing but the best, including an agency which is well-managed and responsive to their needs," Fallin said. "The new appointees to the War Veterans Commission will work diligently to ensure our veterans receive the highest standard of care."
Finally, the Fiscal year 2013 budget also includes an additional $1 million in funding to increase nursing staff and reduce staff/patient ratios at veterans facilities.