HARRISBURG – The state Senate recently gave final approval to a half dozen legislative measures boosting support for Pennsylvania veterans and their families, according to Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33).
The bills – including a Mastriano measure that would implement a statewide Veterans Courts system – are being sent to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law.
“Veterans fought for our freedom, so it is important for lawmakers to show our appreciation by fighting for American heroes,” said Mastriano, a retired 30-year combat veteran. “I’ll never stop fighting for our patriots.”
Senate Bill 976 places Veterans Courts into state law, encourages counties to partner on Regional Veterans Courts, and provides an option for a “Veterans Track” within a county’s problem-solving court. Veterans Courts are optional and provide mentorship, specialized probation officers and treatment for underlying problems. These courts produce extremely low recidivism rates in Pennsylvania and nationally.
Senate Bill 1076 makes the Military Family Relief Assistance Program permanent. The authorizing legislation was due to end this year. Overall, the program provides grants of up to $3,500 to eligible service members or their family during a time of hardship arising from active duty.
Senate Bill 952 revises the state Veterans’ Preference Law, which provides a hiring preference to qualified veterans seeking public employment in line with skills and experience, obtained during military training. The bill makes several changes, such as clarifying the transfer of public employment preference to spouses and allowing those transitioning from military service, Reserves or National Guard to receive preference.
House Bill 375 excludes the value of a veteran’s federal disability payments and the value of all state service-connected payments from income eligibility calculations for the PACE and PACENET programs. The bill would help more veterans qualify for prescription drug assistance.
House Bill 86 and Senate Bill 395 promote the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Flag. House Bill 86 requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown whenever the U.S. flag is displayed on any ground or building owned by the state. Senate Bill 395 requires the display of the POW/MIA flag at all roadside rest-stops and welcome centers operated by the state, as well as at PA Turnpike service plazas.