Senate Committee will discuss Hazlewood Act at March 6 meeting
On March 6, 2013, the Veterans Affairs and Military Installations (VAMI) Committee of the Texas Senate will hold a hearing focusing on state educational benefits for Veterans and their families.
One state benefit that will be discussed is the Hazlewood Act, which provides an educational benefit to Texas Veterans, and certain dependents or spouses of Texas Veterans, by authorizing an exemption from tuition and required fees to a maximum of 150 semester credit hours at public institutions of higher education in Texas.
Universities around the state have vocalized concerns that the Hazlewood Act has become burdensome, and they want the 83rd Texas Legislature to find a way to reimburse the universities for the waived tuition and fees for Veterans and their children.
“I am committed to defending Hazlewood benefits for our Veterans and their families, because they have earned it,” said State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Chair of VAMI. “The ‘burden’ that Texas universities now face is not caused by Veterans, who have received this benefit for years. The burden is caused by a Legislature that cut funding to its universities.”
According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), 17,869 Veterans and 4,716 spouses and children of eligible Veterans received Hazelwood benefits during FY2011. Since the implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2009, there has been a rapid increase in the use of both federal and state education benefits.
“When budgeting is done with a cuts-only mentality, as was done in the 82nd Legislature, real people pay the consequences,” said Sen. Van de Putte. “I hope the 83rd Legislature will not decide to balance the budget on the backs of those who made enormous sacrifices for us, including military families. I think the testimony given at the March 6 hearing will put a human face on Hazlewood — we’ll hear directly from those who will be hurt if we fail to properly invest in the education of Texans.”
According to a report produced by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), the total value of awards for Hazlewood Act has increased from approximately $24.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $71.9 million in fiscal year 2011 since the implementation of the Hazlewood Legacy Act in fiscal year 2010. In the General Appropriations Act, the budgets of public institutions of higher education in Texas are $7.9 billion for fiscal year 2012.
Though there are approximately 28 educational benefits or exemptions available to Texans according to THECB, only the Hazlewood Act has come under scrutiny during this legislative session.
Capt. Sergio Tristan of the Texas National Guard has created a Facebook page to highlight and educate the public on the benefits of the Hazlewood Act. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Veterans-In-Defense-of-the-Hazlewood-Act/153915298100244)
“In my opinion the numbers are irrelevant,” said Tristan. “Any reduction in Veteran benefits [is] incompatible with Texas values.”
To learn more about the qualifications for the Hazlewood Act, the Hazlewood Legacy Act, or apply for the benefit, please visit http://www.tvc.texas.gov/Hazlewood-Act.aspx.
Veterans Cash lottery game helps female Veterans get back on their feet
One year ago, Della Lopez, a Navy Veteran, had her dream of pursuing a computer specialist certification tested. Her health had begun to deteriorate and she had chronic pain in her feet; Lopez was developing neuropathy. As a result, she was having trouble with daily activities, especially getting around from class to class. The pain was intense; she would soon have to quit her certification program. It was at this time that her academic counselor referred her to Project Mend, an organization in San Antonio, Texas. Project Mend provided Lopez orthotic shoe inserts which dramatically reduced her pain and helped her regain the quality of life she once had.
“I got my life back,” says Lopez. “If I had not been helped by Project Mend, I would still be waiting to hear from the VA and I still would be in pain.”
Texas is home to over 150,000 female Veterans, and as this number continues to grow, services directed to female Veterans must grow as well. Project Mend is one organization that is targeting the female Veteran population in South Central Texas.
Project Mend is dedicated to helping low-income Veterans with disabilities obtain medical equipment and financial assistance to help with the purchase of assistive technologies medically necessary for rehabilitation and recovery. They serve Texas Veterans in San Antonio and the surrounding counties. Since July 2011, through a grant from Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans’ Assistance (FVA), they have served a total of 89 Veterans with specialized assistive technology devices, as of July 2012.
The FVA program awards reimbursement grants in two categories: FVA General Assistance Grants and Housing4TexasHeroes. Both categories offer funding to non-profit and local government organizations to provide direct services to Texas Veterans and their families. To date, TVC has provided over $26.9 million in 120 grants to 85 local government and non-profit organizations to help serve over 135,000 Veterans and their family members.
The Fund for Veterans’ Assistance program is funded through four primary sources: (1) Veterans Cash lottery scratch-off game; (2) Vehicle registrations; (3) Donations either online or by check; and (4) State Employee Charitable Campaign. The Housing4 Texas Heroes grant is funded through the Housing Trust Fund.
“It is important for people to know where the dollars come from to support the FVA grants and those Veterans who are helped,” said Kathy Valdez, Executive Director of Project Mend. “The funds from the Veterans Cash game are vital to our community because every person you meet in San Antonio, Texas, has some connection to a Veteran.”
The newest $2 Veterans Cash scratch-off game was released February 25, 2013. The game has generated millions of dollars for the FVA since the game’s introduction in November 2009. Veterans Cash is the primary source of funding for the FVA. The FVA awards these funds to organizations statewide and ensures the funds are being utilized to directly assist Texas Veterans and their families.
“Helping people is what I do. Without the funds from Veterans Cash, I would be unemployable,” said Lopez.
More information about the FVA and organizations receiving grants can be found at http://www.tvc.texas.gov/Fund-for-Veterans-Assistance.aspx.
15th Annual Veterans Summit ‘Answered the Call’
From February 11-13, the Texas Veterans Commission hosted the 15th Annual Veterans Summit at the Palmer Events Center in Austin, Texas. During this three-day event, attendees heard from state, local, and federal officials on Veterans’ issues, attended Veteran advocate panels, and learned about programs and benefits available to Veterans in Texas.
The theme, “Answering the Call,” echoed throughout the Summit as approximately 400 attendees and 80 exhibitors went to seminars and panels that included topics of discussion such as claims, employment and education benefits; women Veterans; Veteran entrepreneurship and business ownership; criminal justice; mental health; and social media.
“You didn’t wait when your country asked you to serve, and you shouldn’t have to wait for your benefits,” said keynote speaker Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. “You [Veterans] more than deserve it, you’ve earned it.”
The Summit also featured intensive workshops and seminars on Monday, February 11. A Veteran Entrepreneur Seminar provided information to aspiring Veteran entrepreneurs on funding sources, mentors, marketing strategies, securing federal contracts and more. Non-profit organizations and Veterans Service Organizations that provide services to Texas Veterans and their families were able to attend two workshops: (1) Planning for Program Evaluation and Grant Reporting; and (2) Understanding Strategic Alliances: A Continuum. Also a Women Veterans “Get-to-Work” Seminar & Workshop focused on personal finances, budgeting, community service programs, employment, and education.
A Veterans Expo ran as well on February 12-13. On Tuesday, the Expo opened at 1:00 p.m. and featured over 80 state, local, and federal agencies; Veterans organizations, banks, colleges, and companies that provide Veteran-specific services for Veterans and their families. Participants included the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), USAA, Veterans of Foreign Wars, TexVet, Red Cross, Dell, Toyota, U.S. Department of Defense, University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and many more.
On February 13, Veterans could also attend a Beating the VA Backlog clinic as well as Employment and Education clinics where staff from the Texas Veterans Commission was available to provide direct, one-on-one assistance to Veterans. Over 150 Veterans received information on pending claims with VA, employment services, and education benefits.
“Texas will do whatever it can to support Veterans and military members and their families,” said TVC Executive Director Thomas P. Palladino.
For pictures from the 15th Annual Veterans Summit, please visit TVC’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/texasveteranscommission.
I Samuel 30:22-25 (NIV) Once a soldier always a soldier… And some of us can do more than just guard duty… —Editor
… But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.” David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this…