With the approach of Memorial Day, we’re reminded that freedom comes at a cost. This year alone, nearly 4,000 Iowa soldiers will be deployed overseas. They and their families sacrifice a great deal for our country. That’s why we continue to reach out to soldiers and veterans to make sure they get the help they need. I’ve worked closely with local Iowans and my colleagues in the Legislature to maintain Iowa’s position as a national leader when it comes to supporting our veterans, soldiers and their families. Here is some of what we accomplished during the 2010 session: • Made Iowa the first state to approve the 10 quality-of-life measures for military families requested by the U.S. Department of Defense (www.usa4militaryfamilies.dod.mil/). • Helped veterans go to college by providing more than $3 million in student aid this year and more than $13 million over the last four years (SF 2376). • Expanded the Homeownership Assistance Program to help veterans buy a home (HF 2148). • Helped soldiers maintain family ties by allowing them to designate a family member to visit their children while they are away on active duty (SF 2226). • Strengthened services to veterans by establishing a spot for advocates familiar with veterans’ issues on two state mental health policy panels (SF 2175). • Expanded the Injured Veterans Grant Program to include any veteran injured in the line of duty who required at least 30 consecutive days of military hospitalization (HF 755). • Helped families handle relocations by approving unemployment benefits for “trailing spouses” who leave a job to follow their military spouse (HF 2110). • Expanded outreach to disabled veterans about federally funded job-training opportunities and new job-training programs (HF 2454). • Helped disabled veterans who own and operate small businesses get state contracts (HF 2449). • Improved medical services by requiring Iowa insurance to cover substance abuse and mental health treatment for Iowa veterans (SF 2201). • Ensured that employers give veterans paid or unpaid time off of work on Veterans’ Day (HF 2197). • Assisted deployed servicemembers in filing their taxes before and after returning to the United States (HF 2384). • Waived or reduced certain state permit fees for servicemembers, veterans and their families, including hunting and fishing licenses (SF 2297). When you consider the sacrifices that our servicemembers, veterans and their families make for our liberty and freedom, the benefits we provided them are truly modest, common-sense measures.
This is a legislative update from Senator Tom Rielly, representing Iowa, Poweshiek, and Keokuk counties, and portions of Mahaska and Tama counties. To contact Senator Rielly when the Legislature is not in session, call him at 641-673-0359. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Senator Tom Rielly is chair of the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture, Commerce, Economic Growth, Environment & Energy Independence, and Local Government committees.