Veterans: On the back burner in Indiana

Were you aware that the Indiana House of Representatives does not have a “Veteran’s” committee?  Nope, it has to share its focus with another called “Public Safety”.  Indiana legislators refuse to give veterans their own committee.  

In 2019 there was an article by Justin Hicks placing Indiana 46th out of 50 in taking care of our veterans.  That means only 4 states treat their veterans worse than we do here.  This is an appalling statistic and is furthered by another article by John Kiernan,  published in May of this year,  

In 2018, there were 16 bills offered to help veterans in Indiana, with only 3 of the 16 bills receiving a hearing.  Only two, SB96 and SB262 were actually passed and signed by the Governor.  One extends the Vet Pilot Program through this year, 2020, and the other, authored by Karlee Macer in the House, allowed the BMV to provide disabled veterans a permanent license plate.

Some of the 14 bills that did not receive even a hearing involved free Golden Passports, a tax credit for small businesses to hire vets, medical marijuana availability for vets, a bill to reduce college tuition for children of veterans, a proposed lottery ticket with a portion of the profits going toward assisting homeless vets, more veteran’s legal services, Indiana National Guard students paying discounted college tuition, reducing or eliminating state taxes for veterans, including property taxes.  Noting that of the 14 bills listed above, none were brought to the floor  by the current supermajority.  These bills were brought by the minority and promptly trashed.

Kiernan’s article, “Best and Worst States for Military Retirees”, uses three main criteria for ranking, each equally rated at 33.33%.  The first criteria is the Economic Environment Rank.  Because Indiana has relatively low cost of living, the score in this category is 27/50.  However, further checking shows that in the Quality of Life Rank for veterans Indiana scores 45/50 ranking.  Only five states have lower quality of life for retired veterans.  The last category is titled “Health Care rank.  Indiana, again, scores 45/50.  Many veterans are forced to travel to another state to receive healthcare.  Women veterans have even more trouble finding female specific health care services. Indiana’s overall score is 45/50.  Again, only five states scored lower than Indiana.

Photo credit: News and Tribune, Indiana

I personally work around veterans every week.  Many of them spent weeks in swamps in Vietnam, many have suffered severe disabilities, or are compromised by PTSD issues and other mental health issues, being unable to find employment, and homelessness issues.  These brave men and women went to foreign lands, to protect your rights as Americans.

When military members retire, they are now thrown into a Covid-19 civilian life, including unemployment and curtailed services.  Even before Covid-19, transitioning to retirement for our veterans include more needed services for PTSD, disability, and homelessness.  Each state has different tax practices for their retired military, and tax policies vary widely, from state tax exemptions to zero property tax.

Indiana needs to become a safer, more productive state and encourage Hoosier veterans to come back home and retire after their service to our country.  This starts by creating a Committee that is exclusively for Veterans.  The next step is to actually discuss each bill regarding veterans, to promote taking care of those who took care of us.