Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Governor’s Budget Good for Veterans, As Expected

Full funding for WDVA, full restoration of Wisconsin G.I. Bill, and unexpected approval of the Chippewa Falls veterans home

Governor Walker’s biennial budget looks good for veterans, according to information provided to DAV-Wis. from the Governor’s staff.

According to Governor Walker’s staff, the WDVA budget will be “in the black” by approximately $13 million at the end of the 2011-13 biennium. 

And, the Wisconsin G.I. Bill tuition remission for veterans will be fully restored under the Governor’s budget proposal, a major DAV goal since cuts were made in the last legislative session under Governor Jim Doyle’s budget.

Additionally, the new Chippewa Falls veterans home is unexpectedly approved in the Governor’s budget proposal.  The approval for the major new skilled nursing facility is the result of efficiencies that will be gained by making the facility a contracted facility as is done in a number of other states.

According to the Governor’s staff, the request by DAV and many other veterans service organizations for prompt leadership change at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) will be answered in upcoming legislation.  Policy matters are generally not allowed in budget legislation, though those rules have been frequently violated in previous budget bills.

Following leadership change at WDVA, a top-to-bottom review is top on the agenda, according to the Governor’s staff.  It is expected that DAV-Wis. will continue to continue to be closely involved in helping to reshape the state veterans agency to be much more effective, efficient, and beneficial to Wisconsin’s veterans and those who care for them.

So called “lapses” from the Veterans Trust Fund, veterans homes fund, and veterans home mortgage loan fund – decried by the veterans community in the last biennium -- are fully refunded under the Governor’s proposed budget. 

This Veterans Trust Fund surplus would be achieved through several actions, including a shift in funds from state veterans homes surplus, and a new influx of roughly $700,000 per year in new federal funds resulting from the increase in the veterans burial plot allowance passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.  DAV has for many years sought this burial plot allowance increase, including in DAV’s national Resolution #177, “Support an Increase in Burial Plot Allowance for Veterans Who Die of Nonservice Connected Disabilities.”

--Anthony Hardie, DAV National Deputy Chief of Staff, DAV-Wis. State Special Assistant

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