Brown County Browser: What every veteran should know: No. 3
A week ago 27 members of greater Brown County attended the annual Veterans Day on the Hill Capitol Rally in St. Paul. This event brings veterans and legislators from around the State to one central location so that our grass roots organizations can lobby for a strong set of laws that will continually support Minnesota’s Active Duty Military and Veteran population.
Some of you might ask, “What does Minnesota have to offer a veteran?” That is a common question; and here are some examples of laws that benefit Minnesota Veterans.
Foremost is the 1917 law that established the Soldiers Rest cemetery plot purchase program. This law was enacted just weeks before the U.S. formally entered the Great War. The law authorizes all counties to purchase grave plots for the exclusive use for veterans and their spouses. Over the last 79 years Brown County has used this law to purchase 1,125 graves in three cities.
In more recent years legislation has been approved to give all disabled veterans a free annual State Park vehicle pass; free metro transit (light rail & busing) rides, and for those more severely disabled, a homestead property tax exclusion. Also recently passed is a law that exempts income tax collections on military pensions for those who (generally) served 20-years and are considered to be retired from the military.
All veterans in Minnesota receive a hiring preference in State, County, City, and Township employment. When Minnesota veterans exhaust their Federal GI Bill education benefit, Minnesota has another $10,000 waiting in reserve to be used to finish up their degree. And when the final note in Taps is played at a deceased Veterans committal service, the Honor Guard receives a $50 stipend for their poignant send off for our servicemen and servicewomen whose flag forever fly’s at half-staff.
On our ride to St. Paul I visited with a Vietnam veteran who had relocated to New Ulm in the past couple of years. His desire to join the trip was to meet other veterans and get a pulse of what is going on in our communities. He said that he wanted to return to college, but that classes are quite expensive.
“No, not for you” I said. There is no tuition at public colleges in MN for Senior Citizens. On the return trip this gentleman told me that he had researched the law and found out that the degree that he thought would cost upwards of $26,000 would only cost $800 in administrative fees. This education benefit is not just for veterans, it is available to all Minnesota residents age 62 and over.
Over my 15-years here as your veterans advocate I have tried to compile a listing of all the laws that benefit our veteran population. This has been quite difficult because the laws are scattered among many different state level agencies such as the MN Dept of Veterans Affairs, the DNR, Public Safety, Revenue, and Economic Development, just to name a few. I think your best avenue to find out more about your veterans benefits is to take a look at the new website published by the MN Association of County Veterans Service Officers which is found online at: macvso.org. Here you will find a list of current benefits, and also how to find a Service Officer complete with their photo, phone number, and email addresses.
I hope to see you at Memorial Day services; over and out.