Lawmakers Want Enhanced Benefits for Veterans

Lawmakers Want Enhanced Benefits for Veterans

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Richard Piatt ReportingVeterans Day 2005 is sparking ideas of reform in the state capitol. Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers are proposing bills that will enhance benefits for Utah war veterans.

It seems we're really good at pomp and circumstance, thanking veterans who have died. But today lawmakers from both parties are proposing ways to do more than just say "thanks for our freedom..."

Republican Representative Greg Hughes went to Camp Williams today to announce a bill to address benefits for families of Utah National Guardsmen. Hughes says guardsmen and reservists often fall through the cracks, and that those survivors deserve equal consideration.

Rep. Greg Hughes, (R) Draper: "They are shoulder to shoulder with the enlisted. A lot of these reservists when they signed up, it was described as a one weekend a month, two weeks during the year, and I think we all agree it's greater than that."

Utah Democrats also stirred the political pot today. They are critical of the Bush administration for cutting Veterans benefits and programs in order to balance the budget. They also announced they're forming the Utah State Democratic Party Veteran and Military Families caucus to help vets cut through existing red-tape.

Larry Daniel, War Veteran, Democratic Caucus: "The amount of funding, although it's increasing over the last several years, it hasn't kept up with inflation, it hasn't kept up with the number of veterans, it hasn't kept up with the amount of health care that's required."

A Democratic Senator Scott McCoy is also proposing Higher Education Benefits for Veteran's families. The bill would pay for 100 percent in-state college tuition for survivors of Vets who are killed in action. It would pay 50 per cent tuition for dependents of disabled veterans.

There aren't many lawmakers who aren't eager to honor war veterans, but the usual sticking point will apply to both these proposals, and that is, getting the money to pay for them.

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