Brown County Browser: Recent legislation benefits veterans and their survivors

Brown County Browser

The March 20th Veterans Day on the Hill Rally bus that took 50 Veterans from Springfield, New Ulm, and St. Peter to visit with their Legislators really hit a home run for Minnesota’s Veterans and their dependents. This article discusses laws passed in the 2017 Minnesota Legislative Session.

Due to an Aug. 1 2017 filing deadline, County Veterans Service Officers are desperately seeking the surviving spouse of any service member killed on active duty, or any veteran whose death was attributed to their military service. These surviving spouses, men or women may be eligible for a Homestead Market Value Exclusion which will affect the amount they pay for their property taxes.

The law dictates that the Service member or Veteran must have died after 12/31/2011, and that the spouse receives a federal benefit called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC for short. Another separate eligibility category is available if the Veteran had been rated 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs and had never applied for their Veterans Homestead Exclusion when living. Applicants must apply to the County Assessor in their County of residence. County Veterans Service Officers are standing by to help with applications and answer questions, a complete directory of Service Officers is found online at: www.macvso.org.

Other laws enacted or amended this year include: Free Annual State Park Passes for Active Duty and Disabled Veterans.

The MN Department of Natural Resources will provide a free annual park pass (window decal) for any active duty military service members. They simply need to show their military identification card to the park attendant. Likewise, any Veteran with any level of military related service disabilities (zero to 100 percent) can also get a free annual State Park vehicle permit. Disabled Veterans should show their VA Hospital ID card which has the words “Service Connected” beneath their photo, or any other VA documentation proving their eligibility.

The new Veterans cemetery in Duluth landed $1 million dollars to fund their operations. This will be the third State Veterans Cemetery behind Little Falls, and Preston in Fillmore County. Securing the Duluth funding will allow the proposed Redwood Falls Veterans Cemetery to move ahead to receive funding in upcoming sessions allowing it to move towards breaking ground.

Did you know that all of the services provided by your County Veterans Service Officers are free? Fees for services are prohibited by law. Unfortunately some private companies look for unsuspecting applicants by telling them that their company can help secure Veterans benefit too.

New this year is a “Disclosure Statement” law that requires private providers to include language in their representation agreements and advertising that informs applicants that these benefits are provided at no charge through State Veterans offices, Veterans Service Organizations such as The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and by the state-wide network of County Veterans Service Officers.

A total of $650,000 will be given to Twin Cities Public Television to produce content telling the stories of Minnesota’s Vietnam Veterans. Another $250,000 has been allocated to aid in the construction of a Medal of Honor Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol. $400,000 has been allocated to the Construction Careers Foundation to develop a workforce program called Helmets to Hardhats which will help Service members and Veterans to secure employment in the construction trades. More info can be found at: www.constructioncareers.org. Another $350,000 of renewed funding will go to the Veterans-to-Agriculture program to facilitate the entrance of Vets into agriculture and food production, processing and distribution through intensive 4 to 8 week academic trainings.

If you are a member of The American Legion, or VFW or their Auxiliaries, you probably know that paying the clubs’ operating expenses can be a stressing event. Our legislators have heard your cries and have enacted a law that will reduce these organizations property tax rate to one percent.

Finally, a bill that was pushed the hardest was for repairs to the now closed Historic Truss Bridge that spans Minnehaha Creek and leads to the Minneapolis Veterans Home. A total of $7.851 million dollars will completely repair the bridge, which will allow normal traffic to cross and emergency vehicles entrance more quickly.

Any Veteran interested in participating at the annual Veterans Day on the Hill Rally should contact their Veterans Service Office for more information. The Brown County Rally Bus will be organized after the New Year and information will be passed through our five American Legions, two Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts, the Disabled American Veterans, and Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapters.

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