A coalition of legislators introduced a package of bills to the House of Representatives on Thursday aimed at improving the quality of life for Michigan veterans.
The Supporting MI Veterans package has more than 20 bills and more than 20 different sponsors. It includes a variety of assistance for veterans, including waiving teaching license and medical records fees, providing property tax credits and creating protections from discrimination when finding housing. It also creates a special hotline to report instances of abuse of veterans and allows free entry into state parks with a veteran identification card.
“We’re forever indebted to all those who have fought to keep us safe, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this package supporting the heroes who have served our country.” said Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-23-Brownstown).
Camilleri is sponsoring a bill that allows honorably discharged veterans with disabilities to purchase up to five vehicle registration plates with the Disabled Veteran designation. Disabled veterans are currently only allowed one registration plate with this designation.
One notable bill in the package deals with the issue of abuse, neglect and exploitation that occurs in Michigan veteran’s facilities. House Bills 5219 and 5221 would require the Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs to immediately notify the Department of Health and Human Services of any reports of abuse. It would also allow the Michigan Veterans Facility Ombudsman to independently investigate any claims. House Bill 5220 would create a toll-free hotline for veterans to use to report abuse.
“After sacrificing so much for our country, veterans deserve all the support we can provide,” said Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-20-Plymouth). “Far too often, veterans have been victims of mistreatment by those charged with caring for them. This is unacceptable on every level and providing a direct avenue to report abuse and neglect will help us ensure our veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-3-Detroit), adds military status to the housing section of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, effectively protecting veterans from discrimination when trying to access new housing.
“Service to your country is a great honor and those who step up should never be discriminated against or disrespected,” said Byrd. “Unfortunately, this happens entirely too often to veterans and active duty service members looking for new housing. It is my hope that we can come together to pass this whole package so Michigan’s veterans and active duty service members will know that we have their six.”
The bills have been referred to various respective committees.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]