Veterans bills push for more benefits & services

By Shelby Salazar
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS ­­– A new bill aims to help homeless veterans receive state aid, if they do not qualify for federal benefits.

House Bill 1057 focuses on improving the lives of homeless Indiana National Guard veterans who do not current qualify for federal benefits. These veterans were placed on active duty service, but did not meet the required length of service to qualify for federal assistance.

The bill’s author, Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, wants to use money in the Military Family Relief Fund, which is raised through military veteran license plate sales.

State Rep. Karlee Macer D-Indianapolis discussing Bill 1057, which will help Indiana veterans to recieve benefits. Photo by Jasmine Otam, TheStatehouseFile.com

Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, discussing Bill 1057, which will help Indiana veterans to recieve benefits. Photo by Jasmine Otam, TheStatehouseFile.com

“We have over $7 million in the fund now, and over the years, I have grown frustrated about how much money we have sitting there when I know the good people in Indiana that buy those license plates really want to help veterans,” said Macer. “And there are veterans who have needs.”

This is not the first time Macer has been frustrated by veteran issues. Before running for office, she worked to coordinate care for retired and senior veterans and their spouses. 15 years later, Macer became “frustrated with the federal benefit, and no one really being able to answer my questions, or willing to follow up with me.”

She filed her application to run on the final day to register for the 2012 election. This is her fourth year serving in the House of Representatives. Macer also serves as the ranking minority member of the Veteran Affairs and Public Safety Committee.

“Our goal is really to insure that Indiana has no more homeless veterans,” said Macer.

She is also working with the chair of the Veterans Affair Committee, Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, on a bill to improve on the training and tools provided to county service officers in Indiana. A service officer is a point person for veterans regarding information about benefits. Service officers also assist in helping veterans with disability claims, education, and vocational training.

Macer is also pushing for a plan to require Marion County to have a service officer. Marion is the only county without a service officer. The post has been vacant for two years.

Macer is enthusiastic about support she has received from both Democrats and Republicans.

“The veterans deserve a service officer, and they definitely need to make sure they are accessible, because accessibility is so important to veterans,” said Macer.

Shelby Salazar is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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