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State stands by its veterans

POSTED: July 7, 2014 6:25 p.m.
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Sen. Jack Hill

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While there is controversy surrounding the state of care from the federal government’s Veterans Administration, there is no mistaking the importance of the services and support that the state of Georgia provides to veterans.

While health care is certainly a vital part of the obligation that the federal government owes veterans in need, the state has a role in helping veterans that the governor, the legislature and Georgia Veterans Services take very seriously. In the Georgia Senate, we are proud to now have a number of senators who are veterans and who have demonstrated that they will be paying very close attention to the needs of veterans and to how the state can assist them better.

The state of Georgia has made many efforts to empower veterans and their families to thrive in their communities by offering services through a multitude of state agencies. Georgia’s veteran population of more than 770,000 individuals has a variety of unique needs ranging from housing services to specialized employment services. Here, state agencies partner together to ensure quality treatment for the men and women who have sacrificed for fellow Georgians and their country.

Veterans services
Georgia offers an array of services for veterans through state agencies and programs. The Georgia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is responsible for all matters pertaining to veterans’ benefits for any veteran residing in the state. DVS’ mission is to inform veterans and their families about benefits and to directly assist them with securing both the federal and state benefits to which they are entitled.

The state operates 49 field offices where veterans are assisted by trained personnel who guide them through the benefits claims process from start to finish.

The state also assists veterans with other services such as procuring housing. Many veterans live with the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, both of which can lead to homelessness.

According to the Veterans Administration, approximately 12 percent of the adult homeless population is veterans. Veterans can receive housing assistance through the housing choice voucher program administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). This is a tenant-based assistance program that assists low-income individuals and families (including veterans) rent safe, decent, and sanitary dwelling units in the private rental market. A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the local public housing authority on behalf of the participating veteran, and the veteran then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. The program also provides case management services to veterans and their families which facilitate the attainment of the veteran’s recovery goals.

The state also operates two veterans’ nursing homes, in Milledgeville and Augusta. The homes provide skilled nursing care to aged and infirmed Georgia war veterans, and provide 567 beds between the two homes. The veterans only have to pay a minimal daily fee as the homes are mainly funded through state and federal funds.

The state offers free veteran’s driver licenses if they are residents of Georgia and honorably discharged. Veterans also can qualify for specialty tags for their vehicles commemorating the conflict they served in, or medals they earned.

Georgia also offers the Disabled Veterans Homestead Tax Exemptions for qualifying disabled veterans and their families. All Georgia state parks also offer reduced fees for veterans through the state park discount card. A comprehensive list of veterans’ benefits offered by state agencies can be found here:  http://veterans.georgia.gov/sites/veterans.georgia.gov/files/related_files/site_page/state-benefits-ga.pdf

The next installment of this column will discuss veterans employment, veterans treatment courts and some ideas on how the state could involve veterans in mentoring young offenders.

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7092 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

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