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Governor’s Budget Highlights Veteran-Related Initiatives

Governor’s Budget Highlights Veteran-Related Initiatives

July 17, 2020

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several veteran-friendly bills from the 2020 Florida Legislative Session into law. Here is a summary of those changes:

HB 171 – Postsecondary Education for Certain Military PersonnelThe act requires the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to adopt a uniform set of rules to award academic credit for college degrees and technical training certification based on service members’ and veterans’ prior military training and experience. The newly enacted legislation helps veterans and members on active duty to achieve their degrees quicker and without having to take unnecessary course requirements. 

HB 205 – Unlawful Use of Uniforms, Medals or Insignia – Effective Oct. 1, 2020, the act adds a provision to an existing law on stolen valor that misusing a military uniform or decorations for the purposes of obtaining employment or seeking election to a paid public office is now a violation of law.

HB 877 – Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities. Proposes amending the State Constitution to authorize the surviving spouse of a deceased combat-related disabled veteran to carry over certain discounts on ad valorem taxes on homestead property until the surviving spouse remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property.

HB 879 – Surviving Spouse Ad Valorem Tax Reduction. The bill implements HB 877 by placing the legislation as a proposed Constitutional Amendment before Florida voters on the November 2020 ballot. If voted favorably, the amendment extends the homestead tax exemption of veterans 65 and older with combat-related disabilities who pass to the surviving spouse. At present, the exemption ends upon the death of the eligible veteran. 

HB 1249 – Transfer of Tax Exemption for VeteransThe act adds a provision to an existing law requiring that veterans who were honorably discharged with a service-connected total and permanent disability or their surviving spouses who are entitled to receive ad valorem exemptions on property taxes for one property, may receive a pro-rated reimbursement of taxes paid on any property they buy between Jan. 1 and Nov. 1 of any year.

General Appropriations Act (HB 5001) – The $92.2 billion budget provides a three percent pay raise for state workers, effective Oct. 1, 2020. 

Highlights within the appropriation for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs:

  1. $9 million in non-recurring General Revenue to help complete the costs of the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Orlando and the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie. Both are scheduled to open in late 2020.
  2. An additional $1.8 million to finish the grant application to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for federal dollars to complete the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home.
  3. 104 new positions to staff the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home and Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home.
  4. Five new positions for the FDVA Benefits and Assistance Division to aid our state’s veterans in connecting them with earned services, benefits and support.

Contractual Highlights within the FDVA Budget:

Florida Veterans Legal Helpline – $500,000

  • Through the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline, attorneys with Bay Area Legal Services provide compassionate and effective legal assistance to veterans throughout the State of Florida.

University of South Florida Alternative Treatment Options for Veterans – $200,000

  • Researching alternative treatment therapies to help relieve veterans suffering from PTSD.

K9s For Warriors – $600,000

  • Based in Ponte Vedra. Works to provide provides PTSD service dogs at no cost to those in their program in order to help veterans restore their physical and emotional independence.

Five Star Veterans Homeless Housing and Integration – $250,000

  • Based in Jacksonville. Provides a residential environment to help veterans get back on their feet. The program is targeted at veterans who are between 22 and 55 years of age and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Depression, Anxiety and other related mental health issues.

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