Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Opinion

April 15, 2014

Remembering those who defend our freedom

When we send out our presession surveys each year, they generally show that Hoosiers are concerned with issues such as jobs and education, and rightfully so. While veterans’ issues may not immediately come to mind as a pressing concern, many people would probably agree that as state legislators, we should also be cognizant of the treatment and well-being of our veterans.

This session, I supported legislation that would provide much-deserved help to veterans and their families. Senate Enrolled Act 352 removes the limit of three years that families of veterans are eligible to receive support from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF).

Those who have never received support from the fund will be given preference, and the Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Commission is required to set a maximum amount that can be given each year. The MFRF has a balance of more than $7 million, and lifting the cap will ensure those funds are available to support Hoosier veterans and their families who may need help with food, housing, utilities, medical services, transportation and other essential family expenses. This extends more help to military families, while still retaining Indiana’s strong fiscal integrity.

I also supported legislation to establish the Hoosier Women Veterans Program. Indiana is currently one of just a few states that do not have that program. As more and more women join the military, I believe this initiative is needed here in Indiana.

In December, I had the privilege of honoring Pvt. Kassandra Woodward, a Vevay native, for being one of 13 women to ever graduate from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Program. While women such as Kassandra make the same personal sacrifices to defend our freedom, women veterans have unique needs that often differ greatly from their male counterparts. Many of these women do not know the programs and benefits that they are entitled to after returning home, and this new program, created specifically for them, will help them get access to those programs and benefits.

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