Imperial, California - State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) traveled across all corners of his district in celebration of Veterans Day. He was particularly moved by a gesture made by young Joaquin Antonio Villegas, a student, who became so inspired by a local veteran’s story that he fundraised for over two years to conceptualize and construct the new Imperial County Veterans Memorial as his Eagle Scout Troop service project.
This monument will now stand as a daily tribute to our nation’s heroes at the Imperial County Airport; just outside the Assemblymember’s district office. During Friday’s dedication ceremony Garcia was able to recognize Joaquin Villegas and Kim Vincent, 56th Assembly District’s 2017 Veteran of the Year recipient, who as President of the American Legion Auxiliary Bradley Keffer Unit 138, was instrumental in rallying support for the memorial.
“It was my distinct privilege to recognize United States Navy Veteran, Kim Vincent of El Centro, as well as Joaquin Villegas for their significant contributions within the community,” exclaimed Assemblymember Garcia. “Mr. Villegas’ project is a prime example of just how impactful interactions with our veterans can be. Our heroes inspire feelings of immense gratitude and profound patriotism that we must remember all year round as we enjoy the safety, security and freedom of our everyday lives.”
“Our golden state is home to nearly 1.8 million veterans, more than any other state in the country. Meaning we have an increased responsibility to secure sufficient resources to support them and their families. This year, I was proud to work alongside my colleagues in the Legislature to author and advocate for critical policies to benefit California veterans.”
Veteran legislative wins for this year include measures that will help provide housing for veterans with complex mental health needs, increase essential services, generate workforce development opportunities and support the creation of special programs to assist veteran farmers or ranchers.
2017 California Veteran Policy Achievements:
Veteran Homes Services - chaptered language in the 2017 Budget requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a survey to assess the ability of veterans’ homes to assist veterans with complex mental and behavioral health needs, and develop a plan to accommodate that population.
SB 330 - Building permits fees: waiver permits a locality to waive or reduce all building permit fees for improvements to the home of a veteran with a qualifying disability that are made to accommodate that disability.
AB 172 - Public postsecondary education: residency: dependents of armed forces members would expand the current eligibility for resident classification extended to enrolled dependents of an Armed Forces member who transfer or retire to include admitted dependents of the Armed Forces member, for purposes of determining postsecondary institution tuition and fees.
Veteran Workforce and Development
AB 1111 - Breaking Barriers to Employment establishes a competitive grant program for activities that address the needs of veterans who face multiple barriers to prepare for training, apprenticeship, or employment opportunities, which will lead to self-sufficiency and economic stability.
AB 1618 - Veteran service providers would create a certification for charitable entities that serve veterans, certifying that the entity meets certain minimum standards and the entity is thus a "Certified California Veteran Service Provider" (VSP). The bill would also create a competitive grant program under CalVet to provide grants to VSPs. The scope of the certification is limited to entities serving veterans with supportive services as specified: health and mental health services, small business assistance, employment services, and job training services. These entities must demonstrate knowledge, experience, and cultural competency to provide supportive services to veterans and their families.
Veterans in Agriculture
AB 376 - Veterans benefits: veteran farmers or ranchers requires by July 1, 2018, the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to post information on their respective websites to assist, educate, train, and otherwise support California's military veterans to enter into farming or ranching careers in California.
AB 671 - Veterans: services authorizes a veterans memorial district (Memorial District) to provide services that improve the quality of life for veterans and their families, including, but not limited to: counseling, case management, and employment training and placement.
SB 728 - State public employees: sick leave: veterans with service-related disabilities measure permits state employees – who are members of the National Guard or federal military reserves who return to state service from active military mobilization with service-connected disabilities, to receive 96 hours of additional, pre-banked sick leave dedicated to treatment of those conditions.
AB 363 - Driver’s licenses: veteran designation prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from charging the one-time $5 fee to a person applying for a driver's license or identification card with a veteran designation if the applicant is eligible to obtain an original or replacement card at a reduced fee or is homeless and can verify his or her status as such.
Assemblymember Garcia encourages the community to visit his website or reach out to any of his offices for additional information on state veteran policy and services.