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2013 State Legislative Update

Mike McElhiney
Legislative Director, MDVA

MN FlagOnce again another budget year has come to an end - but not without challenges.  The Legislature literally finished their work in the eleventh hour - minutes before midnight on May 20 – and achieved much in order to keep Minnesota moving ahead. It was a strong year for Veterans.  Initiatives that were necessary and supported by the Governor and the legislature was able to put the final linchpin in several Veterans initiatives.  Governor Dayton delivered a budget that invests in Minnesota Veterans, ensuring they receive the education, opportunities, and benefits they earned through their service.

Veteran-Related Highlights:
» Minneapolis Veterans Home. The budget includes $18.9 million in the bonding bill to complete Phase 3 of the Minneapolis Veterans Home replacement project. With this state funding, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to leverage $35.2 million in federal funds through a compflagetitive grant process and will provide high-quality skilled nursing services for Minnesota’s Veterans. 

» Expansion of the Minnesota GI Bill. With an additional $1 million investment, the Minnesota GI Bill program will expand to include all generations of veterans – not just those serving on or after 9/11. This expansion will help ensure all Minnesota veterans have access to the education and training they need to get good-paying jobs.

» One-on-One Help for Veterans. The budget provides $2 million in increased grant funding for County Veteran Services Offices, which help veterans and their families obtain the benefits and services they earned through military service.

» Proper Burial for Military Veterans . Governor Dayton is committed to ensuring all veterans who request funeral honors receive them. For that reason, this budget includes $400,000 in permanent funding for the Honor Guard Program, which supports veterans and their families by providing military funeral honors earned through their service and sacrifice.

» Supporting Military Families after the Loss of a Loved One. The budget provides $200,000 in permanent funding for the Gold Star Program, which supports the families of those service members who lost their lives in combat as they heal from their loss. This state funding commitment will help restore the program after losing authority to use federal funds.

» New State Veterans Cemetery in Fillmore County. The state will invest $425,000 in start-up and on-going funding for a new state veterans cemetery in Fillmore County, opening in 2015. This cemetery will provide burial space for nearly 40,000 veterans. Governor Dayton believes every veteran deserves a dignified final resting place.

Rotunda» Addressing Veteran Homelessness. This budget includes $500,000 in increased grant funding for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, which works in collaboration with community organizations to help veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness.

» Information Technology Upgrades.  The administration invested $5 million to improve and modernize the department’s information technology which will benefit the the Veterans Homes Residents care as well as the Programs and Services provided by MDVA. 
Another positive aspect of the session that surfaced through Speaker of the House Paul Thissen’s leadership is a Select Committee on Veterans Housing was established.  Members of the Select Committee include:

Representatives Jerry Newton (Chair), Alice Hausman, Matt Dean, Mary Murphy, Bob Dettmer, Karen Clark, Paul Anderson, Tom Huntley, and Jim Abeler. These members are the Chairs and Minority Leads of the Capital Investment, State Government Finance and Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services Finance, and Housing Finance and Policy Committees.  This select group of tenured legislators has the task of looking into these issues and submitting their findings by February 1, 2014.

We would like to give kudos to a few organizations that really helped all the Veterans initiatives come to fruition this session.  First and foremost is the Commanders’ Task Force (CTF).  The CTF is the collective voice of Minnesota Veterans and is comprised of the nine largest Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organizations in the state; the American Ex-Prisoners of War, American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.  Also, a special thanks is extended to Aging Services for their role in supporting the effort for the completion of the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

Lastly, in the coming months, MDVA staff will be promoting all the new legislation and visiting Veterans facilities and locations.  We look forward to visiting with you to ensure you understand these new laws and we look forward to hearing your concerns.
For a complete list of new laws visit:

To all those involved in making life better for Minnesota Veterans this year, thank you.
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