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California Takes the Lead on Helping Veterans and their Families

By Assemblyman Frank Bigelow

Over our 238-year history, the American military has grown from a ragtag group of patriots fighting for American independence to the most advanced and formidable military the world has ever seen. Every day, our brave servicemen and women overseas make incredible sacrifices to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens, and it is our duty to ensure they receive the services and assistance they need when they come home.

But the sacrifices they make don’t end on the battlefield. We’ve all been outraged by recent news reports exposing serious shortfalls in the care our returning veterans receive. It is unacceptable that our veterans face so many obstacles when trying to readjust to life here at home, and I’ve made it a priority to do what I can at the state level to fix it.

This year, I supported legislation that has been signed by Governor Brown that will improve the quality of life for our veterans, active-duty military, and their families, including:

Making college tuition more affordable – Assembly Bill 13 will require California’s public community colleges and universities to adopt policies allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition rates. Previously, veterans who attended a California school directly after discharge, but before they had the opportunity to establish residency, had to pay the higher out-of-state tuition rates.

This will help ensure that veterans receive the college financial assistance that they are entitled to under federal law, allowing them to earn a degree that will benefit their post-military career.

Connecting veterans with their hard-earned benefits – Assembly Bill 935 will allow veterans to apply for a driver’s license with a unique “Veteran” designation. Veterans will no longer have to carry their DD-14, or discharge papers, to show proof they are in fact a military veteran.

A coalition of California veterans groups estimate a 20 percent increase in California veterans who will apply for federal benefits they may have not known were available to them. They’ve fought hard for these benefits, and we should help make sure they receive them.

Helping military spouses find good-paying jobs – Assembly Bill 186 will help military spouses find work by requiring the state to issue a temporary professional license if they have a valid license in another state.

Our active duty military members move across state lines as often as every two years, leaving their spouses to continually apply and pay large fees for acquiring a new state license in a profession they have long been practicing. Now, military spouses will be able to immediately look for work so they can help provide for their families.

I will always stand with our veterans to support them anyway I can. They and their families have sacrificed so much to protect your life and mine. These measures are just one small way California can say thank you to our nation’s heroes.