What Veteran Issues Will Be Addressed In This Texas Legislative Session?

State legislators intend to lay out their bills for the 83rd legislative session over the coming months. Veteran's organizations will be waiting to see if they are part of lawmaker's plans. Most notably they'll look for legislation that works on reducing the disability claims backlogs that are continuing to rise in Texas.

Since last November, fourteen House and Senate bills have been filed concerning veterans. They range from establishing veterans resource centers at some universities to issuing specialty military license plates. But there will be more to come before final filling date on March 8th.

San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte is Chair of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee.  She says there will be some bills that focus on making it easier for veterans to find work.

“For those who have fought for us so they can come back home and not have to fight to get a job, we’re looking at bills with professional licensure making sure that Texas licensing agencies recognize the professional licenses and certifications from the Department of Defense.”

This is not the only proposal for getting veterans working. Senator Van de Putte also says state agencies and universities need to increase the percentage of veterans they currently employ. A number which stands at 5%.

“We know that veterans make up about 8% of our population so our state agencies really need to make an emphasis [on veteran affairs], so we’ll be seeing some legislation on that.”

However before many of these veterans can even seek employment they may need to address some medical concerns. More than 100,000 Texas veterans are waiting for their disability claims to be processed.

Last year a team of 36 people was brought in to prepare as many claims as possible for the VA. This helps says Van de Putte, still more needs to be done.

“Until the federal government recognizes that Texas has an increasing amount of veterans, that we need a higher priority and more folks. It is unconscionable for our Texas veterans to have to wait up to five years just for VA to make a decision on their disability claims.”

For Houston veterans, the average wait for claims is over 330 days and growing. We will be watching for legislation that works on this backlog as well as providing updates on bills for vets as part of our ongoing series “Helping Our Heroes.”

 

To contact your state lawmakers, visit KUHF's Lawmaker Locator Map.

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...