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Capitol Report

For my last Capitol report of the 2024 Legislative Session (unless we have a Special Session, then I’ll update you), I want to share with you the work we’ve done for Missouri Veterans. As a member of the Veterans Committee, it’s my job to review and vote on legislation that will benefit those who served as defenders of our nation.

 



Missouri legislature advances Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill to governor

 

An effort to reduce veteran suicides in Missouri has reached the governor’s desk. The legislature approved two bills containing a comprehensive plan to address the issue. If signed by Governor Mike Parson, the legislation will require the Missouri Veterans' Commission to review and implement recommendations from the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. The commission must also collaborate with the Department of Mental Health and report their efforts annually to the Department of Public Safety and the General Assembly. The goal is to ensure that data on veteran suicides is effectively utilized to improve outreach and treatment.

 

According to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report, 6,392 veterans nationwide died by suicide in 2021, an increase of more than 100 from the previous year. In Missouri, 185 veterans died by suicide that year, with the state's veteran suicide rate significantly higher than the national rate. The legislative effort aims to reduce this rate to zero.

 

The legislation's sponsor emphasized the importance of addressing mental health issues experienced during and after military service. "We’re talking about reducing the number of men and women killing themselves due to issues from their service. It's crucial to engage with veterans soon after they return from deployment, discussing their experiences and impacts."

 

A key function of the legislation is to ensure that comprehensive data on veteran suicides is compiled and made available to relevant organizations like the American Legion, VFW, Marine Corps League, and DAV. The goal is to utilize this information to enhance outreach, treatment, and identification of those at risk of suicidal ideation. The Veterans Commission has already started implementing some of the bill's requirements.

 

Most Missourians likely know someone struggling with mental health issues, even if they aren't aware of it. Through this legislation, the hope is that more people will seek help for themselves or others. We all face mental health challenges, and being vulnerable is difficult. Every Missourian can make a difference, as even one person struggling is too many.

 

If you encounter someone in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, the most important thing to do is listen. Tell them, "I'm not qualified to help you through this crisis, but I know someone who is and where you can get help." If needed, sit with them and dial 988 to connect them with support.

 

The proposal reached the governor’s desk as a standalone bill in House Bill 1495, and as part of Senate Bill 912, which also addresses a number of other various aspects related to military affairs and veterans' services:

 

·       Information of Services by State Agencies for Veterans: State agencies must include questions about veteran status and interest in receiving veteran services on forms used to interact with the public. They also need to share contact information of interested individuals with the Missouri Veterans Commission and provide information about veteran services.

 

·       Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, & Operation Allies Refuge Program: A medallion program is established to honor veterans who served during specified operations. Eligible veterans, including Missouri National Guard members, can receive a medal of appreciation for their service.

 

·       Military Members Serving as Election Judges: This section allows military servicemembers on active duty in Missouri and nonresident military spouses to serve a selection judges, effective from January 1, 2025.

 

·       Armed Forces Income Tax Deduction: The income tax deduction for active and reserve members of the Armed Forces now includes signing bonuses, effective from January 1, 2025.

 

·       Educational Assistance for Missouri National Guard: Missouri National Guard members can receive tuition and fee waivers for undergraduate courses or grants for eligible institutions. The waiver is applicable from the 2025-2026 academic year and is subject to certain conditions.

 

·       POW/MIA SSG Paul Hasenbeck Memorial Highway: A highway in Osage County is designated as "POW/MIA SSG Paul Hasenbeck Memorial Highway".

 

·       Disabled License Plates and Windshield Placards: Applicants for disabled license plates or windshield placards who are permanently disabled veterans don't need to provide physician's statements, if they present a statement from the United States Veterans' Administration verifying their disability.

 

·       Special License Plates Involving Military Actions or Personnel: Special license plates related to military actions or personnel are exempt from special fees for issuance or personalization.

 

·       Disabled American Veterans Special License Plates: Specifications for Disabled American Veterans special license plates are clarified.

 

·       Army of Occupation Medal Special License Plate: An "Army of Occupation Medal" special license plate is created for recipients of the medal.

 

·       Veteran Designation on Driver's Licenses: The list of accepted documents for obtaining a veteran designation on driver's licenses is expanded.

 

·       Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act: This act regulates custody and visitation arrangements during the deployment of one custodial parent.

 

·       Missouri Veterans and Jobs Opportunity Grant Program: A grant program is established to provide financial support to eligible employers who hire certain individuals, as specified in federal law.

 

These provisions aim to improve support for veterans, their families, and active-duty military personnel across various aspects such as mental health, education, taxation, and recognition of service.

 

The governor can choose to sign either or both bills into law, veto them, or allow them to become law without taking action.  It is anticipated he will sign at least one of these proposals into law.

 

Need to contact my office?

Please call my office at 573-751-1309 if we can ever be of assistance to you or stop by our office in Jefferson City in room 118. I or my legislator assistant are happy to help.

 

For TRUTH, JUSTICE and the AMERICAN WAY!

I am here to serve.

 

 

Brian H. Seitz

State Representative of the 156th District

201 W. Capitol Ave, Room 118

Jefferson City, MO 65101

Telephone: 573-751-1309

 

 

 

 

 

 


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