OpinionJune 18, 2024
Missouri's new legislation aims to bolster veteran support with enhanced mental health services, educational benefits, tax deductions and more.
Chris Dinkins
Chris Dinkins

One month has passed since the end of the 2024 legislative session, and of the 46 bills truly agreed and passed by the General Assembly. Gov. Mike Parson will give his stamp of approval to some of the following pieces of legislation, which are set to take full effect on Aug. 28.

An effort to reduce veteran suicides in Missouri has reached the governor’s desk. The legislature approved two bills containing a comprehensive plan to address the issue. If signed by Gov. Mike Parson, the legislation will require the Missouri Veterans Commission to review and implement recommendations from the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. The commission must also collaborate with the Department of Mental Health and report its efforts annually to the Department of Public Safety and the General Assembly. The goal is to ensure that data on veteran suicides is effectively utilized to improve outreach and treatment. The commission has already started implementing some of the bill's requirements. The proposal reached the governor’s desk as a standalone bill in House Bill 1495, and as part of Senate Bill 912, which also addresses a number of other various aspects related to military affairs and veterans' services:

  • Information of Services by State Agencies for Veterans: State agencies must include questions about veteran status and interest in receiving veteran services on forms used to interact with the public. They also need to share contact information of interested individuals with the Missouri Veterans Commission and provide information about veteran services.
  • Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, and Operation Allies Refuge Program: Eligible veterans, including Missouri National Guard members, can receive a medal of appreciation for their service.
  • Military Members Serving as Election Judges: This section allows military service members on active duty in Missouri and nonresident military spouses to serve as election judges, effective from Jan. 1, 2025.
  • Armed Forces Income Tax Deduction: The income tax deduction for active and reserve members of the armed forces now includes signing bonuses, effective from Jan. 1, 2025.
  • Educational Assistance for Missouri National Guard: Missouri National Guard members can receive tuition and fee waivers for undergraduate courses or grants for eligible institutions. The waiver is applicable from the 2025-26 academic year and subject to certain conditions.
  • Disabled License Plates and Windshield Placards: Applicants for disabled license plates or windshield placards who are permanently disabled veterans don't need to provide physician's statements if they present a statement from the U.S. Veterans Administration verifying their disability.
  • Special License Plates Involving Military Actions or Personnel: Special license plates related to military actions or personnel are exempt from special fees for issuance or personalization.
  • Disabled American Veterans Special License Plates: Specifications for Disabled American Veterans special license plates are clarified.
  • Army of Occupation Medal Special License Plate: An Army of Occupation Medal special license plate is created for recipients of the medal.
  • Veteran Designation on Driver's Licenses: The list of accepted documents for obtaining a veteran designation on driver's licenses is expanded.
  • Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act: This act regulates custody and visitation arrangements during the deployment of one custodial parent.
  • Missouri Veterans and Jobs Opportunity Grant Program: A grant program is established to provide financial support to eligible employers who hire certain individuals, as specified in federal law.

These provisions aim to improve support for veterans, their families and active-duty military personnel across various aspects such as mental health, education, taxation and recognition of service.

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In the Show Me State, we are deeply committed to the well-being of our veterans who have selflessly protected our nation, and wish to honor and recognize the sacrifices they have made. This bill passed with support from both sides of the aisle, and goes to show our unwavering commitment to honoring the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans who served honorably during pivotal periods in our nation's history.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns or suggestions you might have. As your representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at (573) 751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.

CHRIS DINKINS represents Missouri’s 144th House District. The district includes Bollinger, Iron, Madison, Reynolds, Shannon, Washington and Wayne counties.

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