Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Meets at the Capitol
AUSTIN - The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations held a meeting today, Wednesday, January 26, 2000, at the State Capitol.
Members of the committee include Senator Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, serving as chair, and Senators Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.
The committee was formed in order to address charges issued by Lt. Governor Rick Perry. The first charge is for the committee to develop strategies to extend the operational usefulness of Texas military facilities and attract new military missions. The second charge is to assess the effectiveness of state benefits currently available to veterans and make recommendations to improve their delivery.
Today the committee addressed the second charge. Representatives from the Texas Coalition of Veteran Organizations, the Texas Veterans Commission, the Texas Veterans Land Board, the Texas Workforce Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program provided relevant testimony.
Invited testimony was first presented by Glen Gardner, Jr., and Bill Macklamore, of the Texas Coalition of Veteran Organizations. They spoke about establishing a veteran trust fund from proceeds of the Texas tobacco settlement for various veteran programs. These programs--veteran nursing homes, veteran cemeteries, and obtaining vehicles for assisting veterans in receiving healthcare--serve 1.6 million veterans in Texas, the nations second largest population of veterans. Gardner stated that increased funding for veteran programs are needed in Texas because of the increasing, rather than decreasing, state veteran population.
Next to testify was Texas Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, also chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board (TVLB). Dewhurst spoke about four separate loan programs currently in use at the TVLB: veteran home programs, housing assistance, home improvement, and the land program. Last year, the TVLB provided $81 million in loans to veterans through these programs.
After Dewhurst concluded, representatives of the Texas Veterans Commission gave their testimony. They stressed that since Texas has the second largest and youngest majority population of veterans in the nation funding, creating, and operating Texas state cemeteries needs to be addressed.
Next, Mike Olen from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) discussed the various employment and training services offered by TWC to Texas veterans. The TWC currently provides job assistance to 120,000 veterans. Out of those 120,000 veterans receiving support, 43,000 found jobs in 1999.
Carlos Martinez, president, and Mack Rattan, vice-president, from the American GI Forum for National Veterans Outreach Program of San Antonio, ended todays invited testimony. They spoke about homeless veteran programs in Texas and services their agency provides. They stated that the veteran homeless population in Texas has to be dealt with locally and nationally. For example, Martinez stated that a third of the homeless population in San Antonio are veterans. On the national level, the statistic is the same.
There was no public testimony provided today.
The committee recessed subject to call of the chair. They will meet next in San Antonio, at a currently unannounced date and time. The committee will submit its findings from these hearings in the form of a report to the 77th Legislature, which will convene in January of 2001.