Gov. Deal signs bills assisting veterans, military families - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Gov. Deal signs bills assisting veterans, military families

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Georgia Govenor Nathan Deal at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus Tuesday, where he signed three bills in to law that are meant to help veterans and military families. Georgia Govenor Nathan Deal at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus Tuesday, where he signed three bills in to law that are meant to help veterans and military families.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed bills into law Tuesday that will assist veterans and military families. He used the National Infantry Museum in Columbus as a backdrop for the signing.

Senate Bill 320 allows any court with jurisdiction over criminal cases to establish veterans court divisions. That bill is said to address the specialized treatment needs of veterans and aims to ensure that their re-entry into society is systematic, seamless and successful.

“Georgia is a true military state, with more than 700,000 veterans calling it home,” Deal says. “It is our duty to give our wholehearted support to these brave men and women who so willingly and courageously put our security before their own. This legislation will provide veterans an alternative to the traditional justice system when impairments, often beyond their control, affect their transition back into society.”

The Judicial Council of Georgia will adopt standards and practices with the hope of maintaining the current and future success of veteran court programs. The program will be updated regularly to include new and developing research.

Purple Heart recipient and State Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Doug Middleton, says, "To have a veterans court that understands what veterans are facing is super important. Not that we're just going to let them get off or that they're going to get away with doing something, but they're going to get some empathy from a judge that understands.

Chairman of the Georgia Senate Military Committee, Senator Ed Harbison was a key player in getting the bills passed. He adds, "The state of Georgia, I think, has spoken loudly and clearly that we are here for you, we got a hand-out for you, and if you get in trouble, we'll try to help you walk through that as well."

Deal also signed Senate Bill 391, legislation requiring all medical facilities in Georgia to apply to the TRICARE network over the next year. The program is a health insurance program for our military members. The bill does not require a medical facility to enter into a contract or to participate in TRICARE as a network provider or as a non-network provider. Instead, it mandates that a good faith effort be exercised in the application process.

With the absence of a VA clinic in our area, this will be a huge step towards providing healthcare to military members. Harbison says, "They've had to travel so far to get medical healthcare. While that may be a federal issue, I think it's in our interest to make sure we accommodate those needs to the extent that we can."

The new law also creates tax deductions for physicians that host medical students from Georgia schools in medical core clerkships, allowing Georgia to retain its best and brightest medical school students.

In addition, Deal signed House Bill 740, which will extend the privilege of purchasing a Georgia resident recreational hunting and fishing license to all active duty military personnel, no matter their state of residence or where they are stationed.

The governor also announced that now, with the help of the state's Department of Driver Services, veterans and active duty can elect to identify themselves on their Georgia license or ID, so they don't always have to carry military identification for discounts and other benefits.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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