Legislative Update April 2021

Greetings Members,

I am reaching out to provide you with an update on where we are at the state level for this year, so far. 

Legislative Update

I had a busy early session at the state level with a lot of testifying, however it doesn’t appear this will be a very successful year for many of the VSO supported initiatives. When I was asked prior to this year my thoughts on the session, I gave an honest assessment that in a budget year, during a pandemic, with a divided Government (House and Gov different party than Senate) I didn’t expect to get much traction. 

The House and Senate have both passed from their Veterans Committees what their versions of the military and Veteran’s portion of a future omnibus bill. Here is a quick side-by-side for you all:

Veterans Services Budget

  • Senate version $79,851,000 for Veterans Affairs
  • House version $84,168,000 for Veterans Affairs

The biggest differences here are: 

  • The Senate has $750,000 for Veterans Homelessness Initiative and the House has $3,165,000 for the same.
  • The Senate has $112,000 for the 9/11 Task Force and the House has $500,000 for the same.

Veterans’ Healthcare Budget

  • The Senate version has $60,633,00 and the House version $62,120,000. 
  • These are the funds used to operate the Veterans Homes and their programs.

Policy Initiatives

  • The House version includes the language from the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA), the Senate version does not.
  • The VRJA is supported by all member organizations of the CTF, and would give Veterans a chance to get treatment for their service-connected mental health issues when they start to get into legal trouble.
  • Both versions would make the first Saturday of every October Veterans Suicide and Awareness Day.
  • The Senate version includes language to make a flag flown over the Capitol available to family members of service members killed in the line of duty, the House version does not.
  • Both versions make some technical changes to the MN GI Bill, authorizing MDVA to provide Adult Day Healthcare and Dental services.

As you can see, there will definitely be some work to be done in an eventual Conference Committee. Unfortunately, it does not look like either chamber is currently planning on passing a Military and Veterans Omnibus, and instead we will be wrapped up in whatever partisan fight these two chambers decide to have over an even larger monstrosity of an omnibus bill. The DAV MN, along with our partners continues to push for a standalone omnibus for Veterans.

Veterans Week of Advocacy 

Next week we will have the first “Veterans Week of Advocacy” here in Minnesota. Essentially it is an expansion on the previous Veterans Day on the Hill. Mostly it will consist of messaging to the public about what we want to see done at the state and federal level. I hope to have it grow into a much bigger event, but this year we are just proving some concepts and laying the groundwork. In the future I hope to have a Veterans Week of Advocacy that includes a huge rally at the Capitol as a part of it.

If you are not already, I strongly encourage everyone to sign up for the DAV’s Commanders Action Network which can be found here: https://www.dav.org/learn-more/legislation/join-action-network-take-action/  

This is also the go-to place for federal updates. Once you are signed up for DAV CAN, you will occasionally get emails asking you to send a message to your Representative or Senator, it takes 30 seconds after your signed up and it lets our members of Congress know we want our priorities acted on.

I am also asking members across Minnesota to contact their State Senators and State Representatives to voice a couple of priorities for the end of session. Here is an example of how that message can go,

“Hi I am (Your Name) a constituent from (where you live) and I am asking (Representative or Senator So-and-so) to ensure they do everything within their power to ensure this is the year the Veterans Restorative Justice Act SF116 and included in HF 752 passes, and that Veterans issues be separated from all the partisan fighting and moved the floor as a standalone omnibus.” 

That simple of a message, if they ask any questions you aren’t prepared to answer respectfully ask that they reach out to DAV MN’s Legislative Director Trent Dilks at 651-291-1212 for further details. It is nice if you can speak to the member, but their Legislative Assistant can most definitely pass along the message or left on a voicemail is fine.

If you aren’t sure how to contact your state level lawmakers you can find their information by entering your address here: https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/ 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Trent C Dilks
Legislative Director
Disabled American Veterans, Dept. of MN