INDIANAPOLIS– The COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for anyone to ask state lawmakers for more money, but Indiana veterans feel they have a compelling argument.
In eight years, the Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana has helped pass 88 laws benefitting Hoosier veterans.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” said Chairman Ron Martin.
But he said they are far from finished.
“We have lost 20% of our veterans here in the last eight years,” said Martin.
Keeping veterans in Indiana is the goal. Martin feels state tax exemptions, scholarships for Army Reserves and more funding for County Veteran Services Officers would help.
“In some cases, they are working out of the backseat of their car,” explained Martin.
These officers provide a number of services to veterans but one of the most crucial is filing claims.
“This allows them to cut through that paperwork and make the process less painful for a veteran that needs help getting services,” said Martin.
Republican State Sen. Ron Alting said he tried getting lawmakers on board to fund those officers with lottery money but wasn’t successful.
“We need to fund them so it doesn’t fall on the backs of county government,” said Alting.
Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton wasn’t available for an interview on veteran legislation but did provide a statement. Melton is on the Veterans Affairs and The Military Committee.
“Next session I’ll be working closely with my colleagues in the General Assembly to address the most pressing issues for this population. Indiana must remain committed to supporting dislocated and unemployed veterans and helping them regain meaningful employment. We need training programs that are aligned with the future economy to help veterans and their spouses find careers in growing sectors. Programs should be expanded for unemployed veterans now, but also for the long term, as transitioning service members move into an economy that will remain tough for the foreseeable future. We also must equip our local communities in the effort to support veterans. It’s imperative that we help build a coordinated network of social and human services — alongside the State — to assist veterans as they navigate local support for services like food, financial assistance, and housing. We must continue to work toward cross-sector approaches to tackling these challenges. In our communities and across our economy, veterans are assets ready to be leveraged in support of our state’s recovery and resurgence.”State Sen. Eddie Melton (D)
Martin is hopeful the state will help fund Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Hoosier veterans with PTSD.
“We estimate over 60,000 veterans in Indiana probably need this treatment,” said Martin. And again, we want to get this done for our veterans throughout the state of Indiana.”
Sen. Alting said allocating more money next session is going to be very tough due to the pandemic, but they’re going to do their best not to cut anything.
Martin hopes lawmakers come through for them despite the state’s financial hardship.
“We do bring $3.2 billion into the state economy and again, a small business that did that kind of stuff, the legislators would roll over and make sure that they are taken care of and keep them in the community,” said Martin.