Florida Senate - 2024                                    SB 1732
       By Senator Wright
       8-00982-24                                            20241732__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to veterans’ assistance; creating s.
    3         295.235, F.S.; requiring the Department of Veterans’
    4         Affairs, subject to appropriation, to expand outreach
    5         programs connecting veterans, families, and their
    6         survivors to certain services, benefits, and support;
    7         requiring the department to host public events for
    8         such purpose; requiring the department to submit an
    9         annual report to the Governor and the Legislature
   10         which contains specified information; providing an
   11         effective date.
   13         WHEREAS, the State of Florida offers the nearly 1.5 million
   14  veterans residing in this state unique benefits, such as in
   15  state tuition rates for veterans and their families using the
   16  Post-9/11 GI Bill, several layers of property tax exemptions,
   17  and expanded veterans’ preference, including extensive benefits
   18  and licensure and fee waivers, for many activities and
   19  occupations, and
   20         WHEREAS, veterans’ benefits and services provided by the
   21  State of Florida are meant to complement and augment available
   22  federal programs to avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary
   23  state expense for a federally funded service or benefit, and
   24         WHEREAS, with only 749,000 Florida veterans enrolled in
   25  earned health care services from the United States Department of
   26  Veterans Affairs, hundreds of thousands of the state’s veterans
   27  and their families are not taking advantage of earned federal,
   28  state, and local services, benefits, and support, and
   29         WHEREAS, while Department of Veterans’ Affairs veterans’
   30  claims examiners assisted more than 272,000 veterans in
   31  providing information and counsel on earned services, benefits,
   32  and support by the end of fiscal year 2022, additional available
   33  federal dollars for Florida veterans remain untouched due to a
   34  lack of awareness of their availability, and
   35         WHEREAS, a corresponding increase in the quality and
   36  quantity of outreach opportunities linking veterans to earned
   37  benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will not
   38  only increase the quality of life of Florida veterans and their
   39  families, but provide additional federal dollars to bolster
   40  local economies, NOW, THEREFORE,
   42  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   44         Section 1. Section 295.235, Florida Statutes, is created to
   45  read:
   46         295.235Funds for promoting veteran assistance.—
   47         (1)Subject to the annual appropriation of $500,000 by the
   48  Legislature, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs shall enhance
   49  and expand its Internet-based, mobile application, print, social
   50  media, and in-person outreach programs through various means for
   51  the purpose of connecting veterans and their families or
   52  survivors with earned services, benefits, and support beyond
   53  existing underfunded efforts.
   54         (2)The department shall use such funds to host at least
   55  two public events each year to disseminate information to in
   56  person and virtual attendees regarding benefits and services
   57  available to veterans, including, but not limited to,
   58  educational, medical, insurance, and disability benefits.
   59         (3)The department shall submit an annual report to the
   60  Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the
   61  House of Representatives which includes the number of public
   62  events hosted by the department under this section, the number
   63  of attendees at each such event, and any other information
   64  deemed necessary by the department.
   65         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2024.