Opinion — Supporting our veterans

Published 10:33 am Friday, May 20, 2022

The mental health crisis being faced by our Veterans has been a crucial issue that needed to be addressed in our Commonwealth. That’s why we passed legislation that creates within the Department of Veteran Services (DVS) a Suicide Prevention Coordinator to support and closely coordinate effective care services for military service members and veterans and their families.

We also instructed the Secretary of Transportation to work with DVS to promote Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and other certification opportunities for our veterans, so that they can continue to find good work when their active-duty service is over. It’s a small thing, but it’s another way for us to thank you for your service to our country and Commonwealth.

I’ve included some other bills that impact veterans that some might find of additional interest. You may also visit www.lis.virginia.gov for more information on the bills attached, or any other bill that was presented this year.

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HB 1203 Suicide Prevention Coordinator; position created in the DVS report. Department of Veterans Services; Suicide Prevention Coordinator; position created; report. Establishes the position of Suicide Prevention Coordinator (the coordinator) in the Department of Veterans Services to support and closely coordinate effective mental health care services for military service members and veterans and their families. The bill directs the Commissioner of the DVS to report on the work of the coordinator in the annual report to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor and the General Assembly. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 553 Commercial driver’s licenses; Secretary of Transportation, et. al, to implement various initiatives. Secretary of Transportation; commercial driver’s licenses. Directs the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation and working with various agencies of the Commonwealth, to promote and implement various initiatives related to commercial driver’s licenses. The bill sunsets on July 1, 2023.

HB 358 Veteran-owned small businesses; waiving of fees. Directs the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in conjunction with the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, to examine the waiving of fees associated with permits necessary to establish a small business for veteran-owned small businesses. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 120 Special hunting and fishing license for certain disabled veterans. Authorizes resident veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least 30% to receive from the Department of Wildlife Resources, at no cost or a reduced cost depending on the veteran’s disability rating, a lifetime license to hunt and freshwater fish. Current law authorizes the provision of such license at no cost to a veteran who is totally and permanently disabled and at half-cost to a veteran who is 70% disabled. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 40 Disabled veteran special license plate; surviving spouse. Authorizes a disabled veteran special license plate issued to a disabled veteran to be transferred, upon his death, to his unremarried surviving spouse. This bill is effective 7July 1.

HB 17 Military honor guards and veterans service organizations; paramilitary activities; exception. Exempts members of a lawfully recognized military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization, and members of a veterans service organization that is congressionally chartered or officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, when such member is participating in a training or educational exercise, funeral, or public ceremony on behalf of such military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization or veterans service organization, from the crime of unlawful paramilitary activity unless such member engages in such activity with malicious intent. This bill is effective July 1.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.