HARRISBURG - The state Senate yesterday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) designed to give veterans the time, attention and benefits they deserve when they contact their county’s Director of Veterans Affairs.
"Directors of Veterans Affairs in each county often serve as the first and only point of contact for current members of the military and older veterans. However, the training and resources given to these important gatekeepers varies," Baker said. "My bill will set training requirements and minimum standards to ensure that veterans are working with full-time professionals who know how to link them to every federal, state and county benefit they have earned through their service."
Baker, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said Senate Bill 302 is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the Pennsylvania State Association of County Directors of Veterans Affairs and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
"Years ago, county directors were often part-time. They lacked office space, regular operating hours, and formal training. But today, they are being called upon to do far more, and for more and more veterans," Baker said. "Because veterans’ benefits are often confusing to many soldiers and airmen and their survivors, we need knowledgeable veterans affairs directors at the local level to help them cut through red tape and ease the transition from combat to civilian life."
Baker added that in a 2010 Senate hearing on veterans’ services and a subsequent study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the importance of an effective Director of Veterans Affairs in each county was highlighted. She said this need has grown since the closing of the Governor’s Veterans Outreach Assistance Centers across Pennsylvania in 2009.