Veterans Bills - 2006 Legislative Session Report - Edocs

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					Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs                    December 22, 2006
www.floridavets.org


This Issue:
      News of the Week
         o    FDVA, Hillsborough Tax Collector Launch Veterans Outreach Kiosk
         o    Statement by Governor Bush Regarding Hanukkah
         o    Gates Sworn In as Defense Secretary
         o    Gates Urges Americans to Remember Servicemembers, Families in
              Prayers
         o    Deployed Sailors Receive Christmas Gift Boxes
         o    GSA Awards Contract to Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small
              Businesses
         o    Rep. Buyer: VA Information Technology Centralization Helps
              Veterans and Families
         o    DOD Expands Mental Health Screening Guidance for Deploying
              Troops
         o    Soldiers Missing In Action from Vietnam War are Identified
         o    Florida Housing Unveils Millions of Affordable Housing Dollars to
              Active Military and Veterans in Florida
      News from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
      Blue Angels and Thunderbirds Announce 2007 Season
      Florida Job Fair Information
      Veterans Bills - 2006 Legislative Session Report
      Supporting Veterans
      State Veterans’ Homes Program
      Links and References
      Editor’s Note
News of the Week
FDVA, Hillsborough Tax Collector Launch Veterans Outreach Kiosk

TAMPA, Dec. 20 – The Hillsborough County Tax Collector and the Florida Department of
Veterans’ Affairs have launched one of the state’s first Veterans’ Outreach Kiosks in the Tax
Collector’s West County Office at 6283 W. Waters Ave., Tampa.

Tax Collector Doug Belden said the kiosk at the West County branch will enable veterans and
their spouses to request information regarding disability, medical, and education benefits, State
of Florida benefits, State Veterans’ Homes, and veterans’ employment. There is also a map
locating Florida service offices.

Belden said the kiosk is part of a pilot program that will soon include a total of seven units
throughout the state. When the kiosk concept proves valuable in enhancing Florida’s outreach
to veterans, it will be expanded statewide.

Belden said the office always looks for ways to partner with other organizations to take
advantage of the Tax Collector offices scattered across Hillsborough County. The offices attract
nearly one million customers a year and are involved in a number of joint initiatives, including
food drives; voter registration and education; and partnerships with charities and non-profit
organizations involved in specialty license tags.

Veterans’ officials applauded the kiosk initiative. “This is truly a win/win situation where
county and state governments are collaborating to improve services to veterans,” said FDVA
Executive Director Rocky McPherson. “Many Florida veterans are not aware of VA benefits,
and so the aim of the kiosks is to give veterans and their spouses a point of contact for expert
advice on available benefits.”

Florida is home to the second-largest veteran population in the nation and has the fastest
growing veteran population among the states. Hillsborough County is home to more than
100,000 of Florida’s nearly 1.8 million veterans.

Belden said he welcomed the chance to partner with a group representing such an important
population. “Given the number of retirees and MacDill Air Force Base’s presence in our
community, this just made sense,” Belden said. “Veterans are also a group you definitely feel
good about helping.”

Statement by Governor Jeb Bush Regarding Hanukkah

“Columba and I extend our very best wishes to the Jewish community in recognition of
Hanukkah.

“Hanukkah is a season of remembrance and rededication. Like the Menorah, symbols of the
season convey hope, celebrate faith, and recall the miraculous. The persevering spirit of Jewish
men and women around the world is rooted, like Hanukkah, in the knowledge that hope sustains
and joy comes in the morning.

“As the Festival of Lights casts a bright beam across Florida and the world this year, may joy
abound and peace abide with each of you.”
Gates Sworn In as Defense Secretary

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 – Robert M. Gates was sworn in as the nation's 22nd secretary of
defense in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

After President Bush introduced Gates as "an experienced and thoughtful leader," Vice
President Richard B. Cheney administered the oath of office. Gates was officially sworn in at
the White House in a private ceremony.

"It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with the people in this department -- dedicated
professionals whose overriding priority is the defense of our nation," Gates said upon taking the
oath at the Pentagon.

The Defense Department is carrying on many different activities, all of which are important, but
the most pressing concern is the situation in Iraq, Gates said. Since being confirmed by the
Senate, Gates has participated in National Security Council meetings on Iraq, received a number
of briefings at DOD, and discussed the situation and way forward in Iraq with the president. He
said he intends to travel quite soon to Iraq and meet with military leaders and other personnel
there.

"I look forward to hearing their honest assessments of the situation on the ground and of having
the benefit of their advice, unvarnished and straight from the shoulder, on how to proceed in the
weeks and months ahead," Gates said.

The situation in Afghanistan is also very important, Gates said. The progress made there in the
last five years cannot be undone, he said, and the U.S. and NATO must keep their commitment
to the Afghan people.

"How we face these and other challenges in the region over the next two years will determine
whether Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations at a crossroads will pursue paths of gradual
progress towards sustainable governments, which are allies in the global war on terrorism, or
whether the forces of extremism and chaos will become ascendant," he said.

Bush also emphasized that America is at a time of great consequence in the war on terror. The
secretary of defense must understand the challenges of the present, see the threats of the future,
and provide the best possible advice to help direct the nation's armed forces as they engage the
enemies of freedom around the world, he said.

Gates is the right man for the job, Bush said.

"He knows the stakes in the war on terror," Bush said of Gates. "He recognizes this is a long
struggle against an enemy unlike any our nation has fought before. He understands that
defeating the terrorists and the radicals and the extremists in Iraq and the Middle East is
essential to leading toward peace. As secretary of defense, he will help our country forge a new
way forward in Iraq so that we can help the Iraqis achieve our shared goal of a unified,
democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, and be an ally in our
struggle against extremists and radicals."
Everyone wants to find a way to bring America's troops home, Gates said, but the U.S. cannot
afford to fail in the Middle East. "Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would
haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come," he said.

Bush cited Gates' long career in public service: He started in an entry-level position at the
Central Intelligence Agency in 1966, rose to become its director, has worked under six
presidents, and spent almost nine years on the National Security Council staff.

"Bob Gates' lifetime of preparation will serve him well as the secretary of defense," Bush said.

Bush and Gates both praised outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, noting his
exceptional leadership during a time of change at DOD. "Donald Rumsfeld has devoted decades
of his life to public service," Gates said. "He cares deeply about our men and women in uniform
and the future of our country."

Gates said that defense transformation will remain a priority for him, and he pledged to involve
in the decision-making processes those who will ultimately carry out the decisions.

"I return to public service in the hope that I can make a difference at a time when our nation is
facing daunting challenges and difficult choices," he said.

Gates Urges Americans to Remember Servicemembers, Families in
Prayers

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 20 – New Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on a surprise pre-Christmas
visit, urged Americans to remember military members and their families throughout the holiday
season.

"I hope that everybody at home here at the holiday will remember that all these men and women
are away from their families," he said during a news conference at Baghdad's Al Faw Palace,
which serves as headquarters for Multinational Corps Iraq.

Gates noted the troops rely on each other during tough times, "but it's not like being home."

"So I hope that everybody will remember (the troops) in their prayers and be thinking of their
service," the secretary said.

Gates arrived in Iraq, less than 48 hours after taking the oath of office, to meet with U.S.
military commanders and diplomats and with Iraqi leaders.

"I'm also here to thank directly on behalf of the president and, I think, on behalf of the
American people, our servicemen and -women here in Iraq who have sacrificed so much to
serve our country," he said.

As president of Texas A&M University, his job before being appointed defense secretary, Gates
said he often received e-mail notes from "Aggies" now serving in the military. He said he was
able to glean some insights into troops' concerns from those e-mails.
Gates said the letters generally revolved around three main themes. "The first was they would
obviously like to come home, but second, they don't want to come home until their mission's
accomplished. They feel very strongly about the mission," he said. "And the third was, they also
don't want the sacrifice of their buddies to have been in vain."

Younger troops, especially, are extremely committed to the mission here, Gates said, so the best
way to support the troops is to accomplish the mission in Iraq.

"I think that the priority is accomplishing the ... objective of an Iraq that is sustainable but can
defend itself, that can govern itself so that at the proper time we can withdraw a lot of these
troops and send them home," he said. "I think that's their goal as well."

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is accompanying Gates on this
trip. He also praised servicemembers serving here.

Pace thanked troops "who are delivering for our country in every way that we've asked them to
and beyond, and especially to their families, who are missing their loved ones today."

Deployed Sailors Receive Christmas Gift Boxes

By Army Pfc. Michael J. Nyeste
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Dec. 21 – Santa arrived early for sailors deployed, as Senior Navy
Central Command enlisted officials delivered gifts from 26 U.S. corporate sponsors.

More than 75 volunteers assembled the 8,000 gift boxes for sailors stationed in the U.S. Central
Command area of responsibility, including Afghanistan.

"We're here to visit as many sailors as possible," said Navy Command Master Chief James
Russell, command master chief of the U.S.S Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he handed out gifts last
week. "We're just trying to bring a little bit of Christmas cheer."

Sailors at the Navy Morale Welfare Recreation center were surprised by the dozens of boxes.

Before handing out the presents, the Navy NCOs took turns expressing their gratitude for the
sailors' service, and the group joined together to sing the Christmas carols.

The gift boxes included candy, soda, a phone card and greeting cards praising them for their
hard work and effort.

"It was a surprise," said Navy Seaman Recruit Brandon Thompson, a culinary specialist with
the VAQ-142 Squadron. "A lot of sponsors chipped in. It's a nice box, and it got the morale up."

"These sailors that are over here have been asked to go a step above their usual level of
responsibility," Russell said. "These gifts are well-deserved and well-received."
GSA Awards Contract to Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small
Businesses

PRNewswire-USNewswire

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 – The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced award
of the Veterans Technology for Services (VETS) Government-wide Acquisition Contract
(GWAC) to more than 40 serviced-disabled, veteran-owned contractors. Eligible contractors
will now be able to compete for federal government procurements under this contract set-aside
that has a five-year option period and potential overall value of $5 billion. VETS will provide
cutting edge technology solutions to federal agencies without the expense and time involved in
open market set-aside procurements.

“At GSA, we’re doing our part to ensure that federal contracting opportunities are available to
our nation’s service-disabled veterans,” said GSA’s Administrator Lurita Doan. “These
veterans placed the nation’s security before their own lives, and that sacrifice creates a debt we
can never fully repay, but we can and should try.”

VETS’ broad contract scope provides information security, information systems engineering
and systems operations and maintenance. A complete list of industry partners is available on
http://www.FedBizOpps.gov under solicitation number 6FG2005MTV00001 and on the VETS
GWAC Web site at http://www.gsa.gov/vetsgwac. With the addition of VETS, GSA adds to its
contract portfolio that includes offerings from small disadvantaged 8(a) firms and historically
underutilized business zone (HUBZone) small businesses, as well as large-business integrators.
Awards were made by GSA’s Small Business GWAC Center located in Kansas City, Mo.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Act and Small Business Development Act of 1999 established
an annual government-wide goal of not less than three percent of the value of prime contract
and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by
service-disabled veterans. VETS is the result of Executive Order 13360 issued on
Oct. 20, 2004, by President Bush to strengthen opportunities in federal contracting for
service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.

Founded in 1949, GSA serves as a centralized procurement and property management agency
for the federal government. GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total
procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including
8,300 government-owned or leased buildings and 170,000 vehicles. GSA helps preserve our
past and define our future, as a steward of more than 420 historic properties, and as manager of
FirstGov.gov, the official portal to federal government information and services. GSA’s
mission to provide superior workplaces, expert technology solutions, acquisition services,
purchasing and e-travel solutions and management policies, at best value, allows federal
agencies to focus on their core missions.

Did you know? GSA almost doubled the percentage of dollars spent with service-disabled
veteran-owned small businesses. In fiscal year 2004, .55 percent used GSA tools. That number
went to 1.046 percent in fiscal year 2005 and 1.3 percent through the third quarter of fiscal year
2006. Dollars spent rose 65 percent from $65 million in fiscal year 2004 to $103 million in
fiscal year 2005.
Rep. Buyer: VA Information Technology Centralization Helps Veterans and
Families

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 — House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Steve Buyer (R-
Ind.) hailed the decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson to fully centralize
management of information technology (IT) systems and security at the department.

The decision complements S. 3421, a bill recently passed in the House and Senate that directs
VA to provide breach notification to individuals, reports to Congress, fraud alerts, data breach
analysis, credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance, among other provisions.

Nicholson has directed the establishment of a departmental IT management system under the
authority of VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology, also designated as the
department’s chief information officer (CIO).

“Nearly a decade of committee oversight, including 16 hearings, is paying off with Secretary
Nicholson’s commendable decision to centralize the management of VA’s information
technology and security systems,” Buyer said.

Under the plan, more than 5,000 IT personnel are being reassigned to the CIO from VA’s
health, benefits, and memorial affairs administrations, where they have proliferated in a
decentralized approach. Operations and maintenance personnel were permanently reassigned in
October; development personnel will be permanently reassigned by April 2007.
Decentralization was widely condemned by the Congress and private-sector experts after a
massive data compromise in May.

“Over the past several months, VA has made measurable progress in centralizing control of our
information technology systems and bolstering cyber and information security,” Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said. “As reform and reorganization continues, the result will be
a system that is more accountable and better serves veterans. I thank Congressman Buyer for
his partnership in helping VA move closer to its goal of becoming the ‘gold standard’ in data
security. Congressman Buyer shares VA’s commitment to making our systems more effective
and efficient, and his leadership is appreciated.”

The plan addresses most of the committee’s concerns, which peaked this summer after a laptop
and hard drive containing sensitive personal data belonging to 26.5 million veterans and their
family members, and 2.2 million active-duty servicemembers and their family members was
stolen from a VA employee’s home. The equipment was recovered, and an FBI investigation
determined no data had been stolen. Nonetheless, the loss helped crystallize resolve to conduct
reforms along the lines championed by Buyer and the committee.

The centralization decision also supports a presidential executive order to federal agencies
requiring them to improve the quality and efficient delivery of healthcare by, in part, better use
of IT resources. VA’s existing decentralized system could not fulfill the president’s intent.

“Secretary Nicholson has responded to the concerns and recommendations of Congress, best
practices of private-sector technology firms and government agencies, and the president’s intent
to improve government efficiency. His bold action will significantly improve the ability of VA
to provide veterans with safer, quality care and quicker benefits delivery,” Buyer said.
“The VA under Secretary Nicholson’s leadership and foresight will lead the federal government
by being the IT benchmark for all other departments and agencies,” Buyer said. “Veterans and
their families will be better served by the secretary’s good managerial sense.”

DOD Expands Mental Health Screening Guidance for Deploying Troops
FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 14 — The Department of Defense has issued improved policy
guidance for military personnel with deployment-limiting psychiatric conditions, and for those
who are prescribed psychiatric medications. The new policy satisfies many requirements
established in the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act signed into law on Sept. 29, 2006.
Section 738 of the law requires the Department to specify conditions and treatments that
preclude a Service member from deploying to a combat or contingency operation.

“This new guidance will improve mental health screening by assisting our physicians to make
the best possible decisions regarding the deployment of servicemembers who experience mental
conditions,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for health
affairs. “Our finest clinical experts have worked on these guidelines for some time. We
recognize them as a major step forward in helping our servicemembers and physicians. They
also address important concerns of military family members and of Members of Congress.”

Early identification and treatment of mental health problems are keys to continuation of active
service and return to duty. Service personnel with psychiatric conditions in remission and
without duty performance impairment are generally fit to deploy. However, these individuals
must demonstrate a pattern of stability without significant symptoms for at least three months
prior to deployment. Some psychiatric disorders require extensive and long-term care and
treatment. These conditions will cause servicemembers to be unfit for duty and therefore
routinely processed out the military. Additionally, those deployed servicemembers with
conditions determined to be at significant risk for performing poorly or decompensating in an
operational environment who do not respond to treatment within two weeks will be returned to
home station.

While not altering or replacing existing accession, retention, and general fitness for duty
standards, the new guidance standardizes deployment-related mental health policy across the
Service branches.

The guidelines stipulate that few medications are inherently disqualifying for deployment.
However, lithium and anticonvulsants to control manic-depressive bipolar illness are considered
disqualifying medications, as are antipsychotic drugs for psychotic, bipolar and chronic
insomnia symptoms. Psychotic and bipolar spectrum disorders are also disqualifying.

“These are excellent guidelines that support our primary responsibility to ensure the health and
wellness of our uniformed personnel,” Winkenwerder said.

To view the entire policy guidance, visit
http://www.ha.osd.mil/policies/2006/061107_deployment-limiting_psych_conditions_meds.pdf
Soldiers Missing In Action from Vietnam War are Identified

From the United States Department of Defense
Dec. 19, 2006

The Department of Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced
that the remains of three U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been
identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Capt. Herbert C. Crosby, of Donalsonville, Ga.; Sgt. 1st Class Wayne C. Allen, of
Tewksbury, Mass.; and Sgt. 1st Class Francis G. Graziosi, of Rochester, N.Y.; all U.S. Army.
Burial dates and locations are being set by their families.

Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men to explain the recovery
and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the
Secretary of the Army.

On Jan. 10, 1970, these men were returning to their base at Chu Lai, South Vietnam aboard a
UH-1C Huey helicopter. Due to bad weather, their helicopter went down over Quang Nam
Province. A search was initiated for the crew, but no sign of the helicopter or crew was spotted.

In 1989, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) gave to U.S. specialists 25 boxes containing
the remains of the U.S. servicemen related to this incident. Later that year, additional remains
and Crosby's identification tag were obtained from a Vietnamese refugee.

Between 1993 and 1999, joint U.S./S.R.V. teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting
Command (JPAC), conducted three investigations in Ho Chi Minh City and two investigations
in Quang Nam-Da Nang Province (formerly Quang Nam Province).A Vietnamese informant in
Ho Chi Minh City told the team he knew where the remains of as many as nine American
servicemen were buried. He agreed to lead the team to the burial site. In 1994, the team
excavated the site and recovered a metal box and several bags containing human remains,
including those of these three soldiers.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and
the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental
comparisons in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/ or call (703) 699-1169.

Florida Housing Unveils Millions of Affordable Housing Dollars to Active
Military and Veterans in Florida

Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) recently unveiled $30 million for active
duty and veteran military personnel, teachers, firefighters, healthcare workers and police
officers interested in buying their first home. This program is called the Community Spot Loan
program and offers this group of professionals lower 30-year fixed interest rates as low as 5.25
percent, and up to $14,999 in down payment and closing cost assistance.
Moreover, those in 13 South Florida counties do not have to be first time homebuyers to go
through Florida Housing’s program. Those 13 counties are Brevard, Broward, Collier, Glades,
Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St.
Lucie.

The mainstream interest rate for all other eligible first time homebuyers is 5.69 percent. There is
also a 6.2 percent cash assistance option available where four percent is applied toward the
down payment and closing costs.

First Time Homebuyer Program
Florida Housing’s First Time Homebuyer Program provides low interest, fixed-rate loans and
down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible first time homebuyers purchasing new or
existing homes.

Eligible applicants include individuals who don't own their current home, don't claim their
mobile home as real property, haven't owned a home within the past three years, have
established credit worthiness, and have an annual income that does not exceed program limits.

About Florida Housing
Florida Housing was created by the Florida Legislature more than 20 years ago to ensure that
low-income families have access to affordable housing. Florida Housing administers a number
of rental housing and homeownership programs. Homeownership programs include the First
Time Homebuyer Program, the Homeownership Opportunity Pool (HOP) Program, the
Mortgage Credit Certificate program and down payment assistance programs such as the
Homeownership Assistance Program, HOME Down Payment Assistance and Homeownership
Assistance for Moderate Income.

For more information on the First Time Homebuyer Program and the funds that are available,
consumers should call 888-447-2977 or go to www.floridahousing.org then Homebuyers and
Renters, then First Time Homebuyer Program.

News from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Secretary Nicholson: VA Reaches Out to Veterans and Spouses
"Aid and Attendance" an Under-Used Benefit
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reaching out to inform
wartime veterans and surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans about an under-used,
special monthly pension benefit called Aid and Attendance.

"Veterans have earned this benefit by their service to our nation," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Jim Nicholson. "We want to ensure that every veteran or surviving spouse who
qualifies has the chance to apply."

Although this is not a new program, not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility.
The Aid and Attendance pension benefit may be available to wartime veterans and surviving
spouses who have in-home care or who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Many elderly veterans and surviving spouses whose incomes are above the congressionally-
mandated legal limit for a VA pension may still be eligible for the special monthly Aid and
Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses, including nursing home expenses, for
which they do not receive reimbursement.

To qualify, claimants must be incapable of self support and in need of regular personal
assistance.

The basic criteria for the Aid and Attendance benefit include the inability to feed oneself, to
dress and undress without assistance, or to take care of one's own bodily needs. People who are
bedridden or need help to adjust special prosthetic or orthopedic devices may also be eligible, as
well as those who have a physical or mental injury or illness that requires regular assistance to
protect them from hazards or dangers in their daily environment.

For a wartime veteran or surviving spouse to qualify for this special monthly pension, the
veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, one day of which was
during a period of war, and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Wartime veterans who entered active duty on or after Sept. 8, 1980, (Oct. 16, 1981, for officers)
must have completed at least 24 continuous months of military service or the period for which
they were ordered to active duty.

If all requirements are met, VA determines eligibility for the Aid and Attendance benefit by
adjusting for un-reimbursed medical expenses from the veteran's or surviving spouse's total
household income. If the remaining income amount falls below the annual income threshold for
the Aid and Attendance benefit, VA pays the difference between the claimant's household
income and the Aid and Attendance threshold.

The Aid and Attendance income threshold for a veteran without dependents is now $18,234
annually. The threshold increases to $21,615 if a veteran has one dependent, and by $1,866 for
each additional dependent.

The annual Aid and Attendance threshold for a surviving spouse alone is $11,715. This
threshold increases to $13,976 if there is one dependent child, and by $1,866 for each additional
child.

Additional information and assistance in applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit may be
obtained by calling 1-800-827-1000.

Applications may be submitted on-line at www.vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp.
Information is also available on the Internet at www.va.gov or from any local veterans service
organization.

VA National Cemeteries Receive Holiday Wreaths WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 –
Holiday wreaths were placed in remembrance at 105 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
national cemeteries as part of a privately-funded program to honor our nation’s veterans.
The evergreen wreaths with red ribbons were made by the Worcester Wreath Company of
Harrington, Maine. Company president Morrill Worcester donated and distributed the wreaths
nationwide to recognize veterans, military members and their families, and to teach children the
value of freedom.
“This heartfelt gesture of honoring our nation’s veterans during the holidays is a tangible
reminder of just how much Americans appreciate the service and sacrifices of our heroes,” said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.

It is the first year of “Wreaths Across America,” Worcester’s project to decorate veterans’
graves nationwide. For the last 15 years, he has sent wreaths in December to Arlington
National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. This year, the company shipped 5,000 wreaths there
to be placed on graves by Air Patrol volunteers.

Six wreaths were placed at the flagpole in each VA national cemetery - one for each of the
military service branches and one to honor former prisoners of war and troops missing-in-
action. Wreaths also will be placed at 89 state veterans cemeteries. At many of the cemeteries,
they will be placed by members of the Civil Air Patrol.

Blue Angels and Thunderbirds Announce 2007 Season
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Squadrons, known as Blue Angels and
Thunderbirds respectively, recently announced 2007 performance schedules.

The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform at the following Florida locations in 2007*:

March 24: Tyndall AFB
March 31: MacDill AFB
April 1: MacDill AFB
July 21: Pensacola Beach
Nov. 3-4: Jacksonville Beach
Nov. 9-10: NAS Pensacola

*Although these dates have been approved, they are subject to change. For the most updated
schedule information, log on to the team’s official Web site at www.blueangels.navy.mil.

The Thunderbirds 2007 schedule for Florida is as follows:

April 14-15: Eglin AFB
May 5-6: Fort Lauderdale
Nov. 3-4: NASA Cape Canaveral

Florida Job Fair Information
Job fair information from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation is available on-line at:
http://www.floridajobs.org/onestop/os_job_fairs.html


Veterans Bills - 2006 Legislative Session Report
SB 122 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Gayle Harrell)
Free undergraduate tuition at state colleges and universities for Florida recipients of the Purple
Heart and other combat-related decorations superior in precedence to the Purple Heart. Eligible
recipients must be current Florida residents and have been so at the time of the action when
their combat decoration was earned. This legislation recognizes Floridians who have
distinguished themselves in battle by offering significant educational benefits, leading to a
college degree and an improved quality of life for the veterans and their families.

HB 573 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett and Rep. Gus Bilirakis)
Building Permit Fee Waiver for Certain Disabled Veterans - This bill waives county and
municipal building permit fees for 100 percent permanently and totally disabled veterans who
are Florida residents when improving access and convenience for activities of daily living to
their dwelling. Florida has the largest population of seriously disabled veterans in the country,
which means this bill potentially affects 15,200 permanent and total disabled veterans. It
addresses an issue of fairness by adding all resident dwellings owned by veterans to this fee
waiver rather than limited to mobile homes, which was previous law.

SB 1370 (Sponsored by Sen. Burt Saunders and Rep. Bill Proctor)
Relating to waiving the residency requirement for admission into a State Veterans’ Nursing
Home (SVNH) - Grants the authority to the Executive Director of the FDVA to waive state
residency for admission into SVNH to otherwise eligible veterans from other states who are
evacuees from the state where that Governor has declared a state of emergency. In the
immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Florida was asked to provide Nursing Home
admission to veterans from out-of-state. Florida Law had heretofore prohibited admission of
non-Florida residents.

SB 2034 (Sponsored by Sen. Cary Baker and Rep. Stan Jordan)
Relating to educational benefits for spouses of KIAs and 100 percent permanent and total
disabled Florida veterans - Provides for free tuition at state colleges and universities for the un-
remarried, dependent spouse of certain veterans who are Florida residents and who were
residents of Florida for one year prior to the action which resulted in their eligibility. Offering
educational benefits to the spouse of a Florida veteran who was killed in action or is 100
percent permanent and total disabled as a result of military service is an expression of tribute
from a grateful state. It is a lasting expression of gratitude for past sacrifices and an offer of
hope for a brighter future.

HB 7127 (Sponsored by the House Committee on Military and Veteran Affairs Chaired by
Rep. Stan Jordan)
Amends Florida’s current prohibition against disturbing lawful assemblies by providing a
higher level of penalty for disturbing the particularly sensitive assembly of individuals gathered
to give military honors to a fallen veteran. Laying a loved one to rest is the most sensitive
moment for a veteran’s family. This law makes clear that disturbing a military funeral is not
acceptable behavior in Florida. Florida’s veterans and families may conduct funerals with full
faith that their observance will be dignified.

SB (SJR) 194 HB (HJR) 631 (Sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Ray Sansom)
Commonly known as Amendment 7, as an additive benefit provides a discount from the amount
of ad valorem tax on the homestead of a partially, permanently disabled veteran who is age 65
or older, who was a Florida resident at the time of entering military service, whose disability
was combat-related, and who was honorably discharged; to specify the percentage of the
discount as equal to the percentage of the veteran's permanent service-connected disability.
This legislation changes the Florida Constitution, specifically Section 6, Article VII. This
change to the constitution took effect Dec. 7, 2006. This initiative does not have an adverse
effect on previous homestead exemptions.
Supporting Veterans
License Plates Support Florida Veterans’ Homes

Your purchase of the "Florida Salutes Veterans" or one of the recently approved Army,
Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard Military Service license plates helps people who need it
most, when they need it most. The entire $15 surcharge goes into a Trust Fund for the operation
and maintenance of critically needed Veterans' Homes in Florida. A portion of the Marine
Corps License Plate also supports the State Veterans’ Homes Program.

Headstones and Markers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the
applicant, a government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in
any cemetery around the world. For all deaths occurring before Sept. 11, 2001, the VA may
provide a headstone or marker only for graves that are not marked with a private headstone.

Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery are not eligible for a government-provided
headstone or marker.

Flat markers in granite, marble, and bronze and upright headstones in granite and marble are
available. The style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial.
Niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.

State of Florida Veterans’ Homes
Take a virtual tour of a State Veterans' Nursing or Domiciliary Home. The tour includes
ten 360-degree fully interactive pictures. No additional software is required to view these
images. Simply click on the desired picture and the tour begins.

Links and References for Veterans
Click here for a copy of Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide.

Ask Benefits Questions Via E-MAIL: For specific Compensation and Pension benefits
questions and local regional office issues, the contact list is by state and geographical area of
jurisdiction.

Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents (Current Edition) - The current edition of this
booklet lists the variety of federal benefits available to veterans and their dependents. Selecting
the link above will allow you to download the booklet as a PDF file in English or Spanish.
La versión en Español de el folleto "Beneficios Federales para los Veteranos y sus
Dependientes", el cual explica la variedad de beneficios disponibles para los veteranos y sus
dependientes, se encuentra disponible en versión PDF al presionar aquí.

VA State Summary for Florida - Current information is December 2006.
Florida Veterans Mobile Service Center - The Florida Veterans Mobile Service Center uses a
state of the art 40-foot van equipped with two exam rooms, as well as facilities for dental care,
to travel the state performing intervention with homeless veterans who live in rural
encampments. This mobile unit offers a unique opportunity to provide homeless veterans
immediate assistance of food and clothing, health screening and assessment, VA benefit
determination and counseling, as well as assessment of housing, mental health, substance abuse,
employment, educational and vocational needs.

Issues and Action: Federal Veterans Issues

Find your member of Congress

United States Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

Combat Veterans Information

Transition Assistance Program

PTSD and Combat Veterans

Survivors Benefits

Women Veterans Information

(Some links require Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded here.)

Please encourage others to sign up for e-floridavetsNews. Sign up, unsubscribe or change
your email address at http://www.floridavets.org/news/newsletter.asp


Editor’s Note
The material presented herein does not have the effect of laws or regulations.

Be advised that the next edition of the e-floridavetsNews will be e-mailed on Jan. 5, 2007.

Please send questions or comments on this newsletter to Public Relations Manager, ATTN:
e-floridavetsNews, 4040 Esplanade Way, Suite 152, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0950 or email
HeidelbergC@fdva.state.fl.us.

Changes to the e-mailing list may be accomplished by accessing FDVA’s Web site at
http://www.FloridaVets.org.

The newsletter archive is available on the Web site at
http://www.floridavets.org/news/archive.asp.


                                 Happy Holidays

				
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