On Tuesday, the Senate passed two bills to provide more services for Oklahoma veterans and their families. Senate Bills 398 and 713 seek to help veterans both living and deceased. Sen. Frank Simpson, a retired Navy veteran and chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, is the author of the measures.
“The federal V.A. has dropped the ball when it comes to looking out for our veterans. They’re not receiving the help they need financially, emotionally, mentally or physically,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “We have so many veterans who are unemployed, homeless, struggling with addiction and so many other issues from the trauma they suffered while serving their country. Even worse, we have homeless veterans dying who aren’t getting a proper burial. Our veterans deserve to be treated with more dignity while alive and after they’ve passed by their government for whom they have given so much.”
SB 398 would require the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to establish a program to provide assistance for a proper burial for homeless or indigent honorably discharged veterans. The program would aid in obtaining any available burial benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or through private organizations. The program would also provide a burial grant for any indigent veteran or anyone who qualifies for financial assistance as determined by the ODVA.
SB 713 would allow for the establishment of veteran drop-in centers around the state to provide counseling, job placement and family services for Oklahoma veterans. The centers would be jointly administered by the ODVA and the state Department of Mental Health. Nonprofits, with expertise in assisting veterans, would be allowed to apply to provide services at the centers.
Both measures received unanimous approval from the Senate and will next be considered by the House.