August 12, 2005

This year the General Assembly made a long overdue step and created a new legislative committee dealing exclusively with veterans and military issues. As Ranking Senator on this new Select Committee on Veterans, I along with my colleagues on the Committee were able to pass substantive legislation to help our state’s veterans and active duty military men and women.

The Commissioner of the State Department of Veterans’ Affairs Linda Schwartz demonstrated her commitment to our military residents by spearheading these new laws. I had Commissioner Schwartz as a guest with me on my local cable show to talk about these new laws. This episode is being broadcast on your respective cable access channels. This week, I’d like to share with you a few of the new laws we discussed on the show.

First, the Committee created a toll-free phone number that citizens could call to see if they or their family members may be eligible for certain benefits. The Department’s Office of Advocacy and Assistance is in charge of this new hotline.

We also wanted to make sure that the men and women who serve our country are properly recognized for their bravery and patriotism. As a token of respect, a $50 per month bonus, up to a maximum of $500, is provided to National Guard members called to active service on or after 9-11-01 and who served for at least 90 consecutive days. Plus , a new ribbon and medal is currently being designed that will be awarded to every Connecticut veteran who served in a time of war, which should be about 275,000 vets.

The Veterans Committee also took great care to make sure that the families of military personnel are properly cared for. In the biennium budget package a Military Family Relief Fund was established that will provide grants to immediate relatives of active duty armed forces members to pay for essential goods and services such as home repair, transportation, clothing, and school supplies
These are only some of the new programs created this year and a small way that we can demonstrate our appreciation for our military residents. In a few weeks, I will be back to write about even more legislation initiated by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and passed into law. If you have any questions about any of the new bills discussed above or believe you may be eligible for certain benefits, you can contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs at their toll-free number at 1-800-447-0961 or call my office directly toll-free at 1(800) 842-1421. I look forward to hearing from you.