Vets upset with bill that loosens requirements for County VA officers

Photo Supplied: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana): Indiana veterans are upset with a bill with state lawmakers for passing a bill that could impact who will be leading veterans’ affairs in Indiana.

Lisa Wilken, a veterans’ advocate with AMVET, told Indy Politics veterans are outraged that House Bill 1173 passed the State Senate with an amendment essentially loosening residency requirements for whoever occupies the position the VA Director in Indiana as well as county veteran service officers.

Wilken said veterans organizations are staunchly opposed to this and that they were not allowed to have any input on the amendment.

“We were supposed to come to a compromise for the amendment that was going to be added on second reading on the floor,” Wilken said. “But instead the veterans’ organizations were presented with the amendment instead of us working together for a compromise

The amendment still requires the county service officers to be Indiana residents, but the amendment allows non-residents to be hired at county service officers with the provision that they become residents no later than six months after starting their job.

“But the amendment took it one step further,” added Wilken. “Making assistant county veteran service officers eligible to be county veteran service officers after being in the position for two years.”

Wilken said this is significant because you don’t have to be a veteran to be an assistant county veteran service officer. She said that means this amendment makes it possible for non-veterans to be county veteran service officers.

On the floor, they made it sound as if Hoosier veterans are unwilling or not capable of taking these jobs,” said Wilken. “And therefore they ‘had to’ open them up to all veterans across the country and even noon-veterans.”

This is “simply untrue”, according to Wilken.

She said the reason this change came about was that there was one particular county in Indiana that made a mistake and hired a county veteran service officer who is not a veteran. But, instead of “choosing from other eligible veterans”, they pushed for a change in state law so that they could keep the person they hired in that position.

Wilken said many veterans organizations have joined together and sent a letter to all members of the Indiana House and State Senate, Governor Eric Holcomb, and other state leaders expressing their outrage over how the bill was pushed through the statehouse.

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