The Military / Veterans Coalition of Indiana (TMVCI), a coalition of over 100 organizations who support those serving in our military, those who have served and their families, request you intervene on behalf of Hoosier veterans and their families to prevent a wrong from happening in the current Indiana General Assembly.
The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) has filed an agency bill (SB 316 and HB 1264) that has provisions that we strongly oppose. Specifically, in section 4. IC 10-17-12-9, the addition of language that permits IDVA to recoup administrative expenses from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) for staff, technology, and other administrative items up to “15%” of the fund’s annual average revenue. This fund is exclusively used to help honorably discharged Hoosier veterans who meet eligibility requirements established in Indiana Code that are in need. This equates to over $270K that would not be available to assist over 110 Hoosier veterans. Director Dennis Wimer, at our suggestion, presented a draft of his agency bill at our January 8, 2021 meeting. He further indicated that funds were needed because he has been directed by you to revert 15% of his operating budget. This directive places IDVA in a position where they will be required to reduce and limit the support and services to Hoosier Veterans TMVCI strongly believes that IDVA services are critical to veterans and in these economic and pandemic times are most needed. Cutting IDVA’s budget is the wrong thing to do.
Funding for the MFRF comes from “premiums” charged for specialty license plates (Veterans Service, Support the Troops, etc.) income tax donations, direct donations, and from Rolling Thunder donations from their specialty plate. We view these as taxpayer’s donations. Other organizations have vanity plates and to the best of our knowledge they do not charge any administrative fee from the premiums charged. Indiana University, Purdue University, Ball State University for example get revenues from license plates and do not deduct an administrative fee.
SB 316 and HB 1264 also expands the eligibility to receive assistance from the fund. TMVCI has been supportive and working towards expanding eligibility to all honorably discharged Hoosier veterans. However, expansion as proposed in the bills are unacceptable as it diminished the value of Hoosiers who have served honorably by allowing Other Than Honorable discharges eligibility to the fund with a few exceptions. Our position is that eligibility should includes only Honorable discharges and General discharges under Honorable conditions.
The 392,388 Indiana Veterans contribute significantly to the Indiana economy as reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2019, benefits paid or services provided to Hoosier veterans were $3,222,020,000 (over $3.2 BILLION). This money came into the state in 2020 even though the state was in a “hunkered down condition!” We appreciate the executive orders you authored to help veterans in need during the pandemic, however, moving forward requiring IDVA to revert appropriated funds and using Veteran donations is not making Indiana a supportive state for veterans to work and live. Allowing disgraced service members to receive state benefits when the federal government denies them is unacceptable in our view.
We ask that you direct and support IDVA to increase their 2021 budget request and reverse the 2020 fund reversion to insure services support the needs of our Hoosier veterans and we ask that you direct that Hoosiers who served honorably be valued appropriately.
Ron Martin LTC USA, Ret.
The Military / Veterans Coalition of Indiana