Those in the military know there is always something more that can be done to prepare for a mission. And there is more the state can do to make sure those who are serving, and those who have served, are not forgotten, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (20th).
“Those defending freedom heed the call of duty,” she said. “We must be just as vigilant in supporting them.”
Baker, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, is working to advance several bills to assist those who bravely put country before self.
Pennsylvania recently updated its Stolen Valor law to include impersonating a service member to obtain money, property or other benefits, like health care, a job or a government contract. But one local Air Force vet wondered why monies collected from a conviction go to the state’s general fund rather than to aid veterans. Senate Bill 933 directs that all fines paid would be given to the Veterans Trust Fund.
“Falsely posing as a veteran or service member is an affront to all those who earn the right to wear the uniform,” Baker said. “For whatever reason, there are people who lie about military service for personal gain. But thanks to the suggestion of an area veteran, these crimes can hopefully be used to aid genuine American heroes.”
Baker helped to create the Veterans Trust Fund in 2012, to provide grants to veterans’ service organizations, charitable groups seeking to aid veterans, and county veterans affairs offices to help veterans in need of shelter and other necessities of living. There is a $3 checkoff box on all driver’s license and vehicle registration renewal forms that allows motorists to donate to the program. $15 of the Honoring Our Veterans license plate fee is also contributed to the fund. To date, grants totaling more than $2.8 million have been awarded to organizations serving veterans, and an additional $2.2 million has been provided to individual veterans and their families.
Our disabled veterans incur a lot of costs as a result of their service. Pennsylvania’s property tax exemption program is one of the ways we try to relieve some of the financial burden. Currently, income-eligible, 100 percent disabled veterans qualify, if they served during a time of officially declared war. Senate Bill 389 would expand the benefit to all service periods.
“Disabled veterans should not be excluded because their military service falls outside of a certain time range,” Baker said.