Each year, important issues are addressed by the General Assembly affecting Hoosier servicemen and women, the state’s veterans and their families. In recent years, legislators have made changes to state benefits for disabled veterans, made voting easier for service members on duty, and expanded a special fund to help military families during difficult periods.
This year, lawmakers are expected to continue discussing how to address the high unemployment rate for veterans, as well as the continuing challenges of homelessness and mental health for veterans.
In 2011, young male veterans (age 18-24) who served during Gulf War era II had an unemployment rate of 29.1%, higher than that of young male non-veterans (17.6%). Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 20, 2012
Post 9/11 veterans are facing particularly high unemployment numbers in Indiana.
|Percentage of population comprised of veterans
|All veterans unemployment rate
|Post 9/11 unemployment rate
Source: US Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Oct. 2012
Possible 2013 Legislation
State contracts for veteran-owned businesses: At a meeting of the commission in September 2012, members of the Military and Veterans Affairs Commission discussed two options for providing a preference in state contracting for veteran-owned businesses. Thirteen states currently provide state contract preferences for veteran-owned businesses. One or both of these options may be brought up as a proposal in 2013.
Option #1 Price Preference: A price preference is a percentage by which offered contract prices are reduced for purposes of bid evaluation. Some states restrict based on further criteria, including small businesses only, disabled veterans (service connected) only, or the total revenue of the company determines the rate of the discount.
Option #2 Set Aside Program: Under this option, the state would establish a goal to set aside a certain percentage of procurement to be from veteran-owned businesses.
In a September 2012 meeting of the Military and Veterans Affairs Commission, the Dept. of Veteran Affairs recommended the price preference over the set aside option. They testified that this option would affect decisions at the time of making the contract award, providing the most immediate effect.
Professional licensing: Representatives of the The American Legion testified before the Veterans and Military Affairs Commission in August 2012, suggesting that changes be made to the state’s licensing and credentialing rules to help ease the professional transition from military to civilian life. Under such changes, state licensing boards would accept military education, training and experience to fulfill professional licensure or certification requirements. By translating experience and credentials from the battlefield to civilian life (i.e., medic to EMT, specialized drivers licenses), veterans can re-enter civilian life and the workforce with fewer unnecessary hurdles. According to NCSL, Colorado, Kentucky, Utah, Virginia, and Washington already offer this to their veterans. This proposal will likely be discussed in 2013.
Tax credit incentive for businesses hiring and retaining veterans: In 2012 a measure was offered (SB 318-2012) that would provide a $1,000 state tax credit to an employer who hires a returning veteran. “Returning veteran” was defined as individual who was deployed on active duty service in a branch or reserve component of the United States military within two years of the hire date. This idea will likely resurface in 2013.
Combat to College Program: Proposed in 2012 (HB 1230-2012), this bill would establish a Combat to College Program at Indiana state colleges and universities to help recent veterans transition into a higher ed program.
In line with a national trend, the Combat to College Program would allow universities to grant college credit for military service and training. According to NCSL, at least four states —Alaska, Florida, Georgia and Hawaii—have introduced similar legislation this year.
Additionally, the program would provide veterans with a centralized location for admissions, registration, and financial administration services, as well as academic guidance specialized for their transition. Counseling services and other resources would be offered to veteran students who are disabled or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A specialized career services program would also assist veteran students in translating military experience and training for their post-graduation job search. Rep. Scott Pelath, author of the original proposal, is expected to offer similar legislation again in 2013.
Residency tuition rates for service members: Another pro-veteran bill offered but not heard in 2012 (HB 1025-2012) would have allowed Indiana veterans returning to an Indiana university within 12 months of separation eligible for in-state tuition. The original measure would have applied only to undergraduate courses for veterans who listed Indiana as the individual’s home of record at the time of enlistment.
Excise tax credit: Currently, disabled veterans are entitled to a property tax deduction on their home. For those disabled veterans who do not own property, legislators are considering allowing the tax benefit to alternatively be used against excise tax owed on the veteran’s vehicle license plates. If proposed, the 2013 measure may include eligibility for a surviving spouse as the property benefit does.