Legislative Support of Veterans in Maine
New Veteran Laws Passed in 2018
On January 1, 2018 Maine hospitals began implementing a pilot program to identify veterans in need of mental and behavioral health care. The Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, has entered into contracts with both EasterSeals Maine and Health Affiliates Maine in an effort to ensure a statewide network of case management is established, which will provide coordinated mental health care services to Maine veterans.
The new law provides funding for tuition assistance to Maine National Guard members attending state postsecondary education institutions and private postsecondary education institutions.
The law also funds the Veterans Temporary Assistance Fund, which will provide funding for financial assistance to veterans. $250,000 will be available to help veterans and their families in need of immediate financial assistance across the State of Maine.
New Veteran Laws Passed in 2017
In 2017, the legislation passed by the 128th Legislature during the First Regular session. Among the new laws supporting veterans are:
- The Secretary of State may now issue Air Medal decals for use with special veterans registration plates to any person who served in the United States Armed Forces, was honorably discharged and was awarded a medal, badge or ribbon.
- A resident disabled veteran or a nonresident disabled veteran who is a resident of another state may obtain upon application, at no cost, all hunting, trapping and fishing licenses, including permits, stamps and other permission needed to hunt, trap and fish.
- Qualifying veterans include: a veteran who was honorably discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard; and has a service-connected disability evaluated at 50% or more.
- The Secretary of State may now issue a set of special designating plates to be used in lieu of regular registration plates for a vehicle with a registered gross weight of not more than 26,000 pounds.
- The law applies to any 100% disabled veterans with a certificate from the VA regarding the veteran’s disabled status.
- The Adjutant General may now negotiate and execute agreements to provide state military forces to or accept military forces from other states in support of federally funded National Guard missions.
- The Adjutant General may appoint a provost marshal to oversee security at National Guard military facilities and real property consistent with federal regulations governing federally owned facilities located in the State.
- The Adjutant General may designate all or portions of department facilities or real property of the department as military facilities.
- Modifications of, or changes to, National Guard facilities and department facilities are limited to those that are without cost or are federally funded (directly or indirectly) through a cooperative agreement.
- The definition of a “child” of a veteran now includes a stepchild whose parent is married to an eligible veteran for at least 5 years and remains married to the veteran during the period for which benefits are received.
- A Veteran Service Officer may not knowingly present or prosecute a fraudulent claim against the United States or knowingly provide false information to the United States.
- Veteran Service Officers may not demand or accept unlawful compensation for preparing, presenting or prosecuting a claim or advising a claim.
- A claim, issue or argument is frivolous if the veteran service officer is unable to make a good faith argument on the merits of the position taken; or to support the position taken by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.
- The Adjutant General may provide logistical and administrative support to military welfare societies in the performance of their functions to provide relief directly to members of the Maine National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard; and to facilitate the distribution of emergency financial relief.
- Removes the condition that a veteran must have served for more than 10 consecutive years since the most recent year in which the veteran held a fishing license.
- Continues eligibility for lobster and crab fishing licenses following successful appeals.
- The Commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation has been given the authority to exercise discretionary authority, after consultation with applicable licensing boards, to review and determine on a case-by-case basis examination and licensing eligibility for applications for licensure submitted by individuals who identify themselves as veterans with military service, experience and training.
- The Commissioner also as discretionary authority to waive examination fees and license fees for applicants for licensure who identify themselves as veterans.
New Veteran Laws Passed in 2016
In 2016, Governor LePage and the members of the 127th Legislature have passed some important laws impacting Maine's veterans. Among the new laws supporting veterans are:
- Allocates additional funding to Maine's Bureau of Veterans' Services to:
- Hire two mobile Veteran Service Officers who will support veterans in underserved areas
- Support a robust marketing and outreach campaign to better inform Maine's veterans about their earned services and benefits
- Allows a sales tax exemption for veteran service organizations
- Streamlines state-wide coordination of services for homeless veterans
- Provides tuition waivers for the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems, as well as Maine Maritime Academy, for Maine's National Guard members
- Stipulates that University of Maine schools have a dedicated veterans' coordinator if they have enrollment of 25 or more veterans
- Expands a 2015 law, LD 43, which made it illegal for a person to make a false, verbal claim to be a veteran or a member of the Armed Forces for personal gain
- Under LD 1642, it will be illegal for someone to - in any way - falsely imply military service, such as a person on a median strip holding a "Homeless Veteran" sign
- Fines charged to people who violate LD 1642 will be funneled to the Maine Military Family Relief Fund
LD 1658 – An Act to Reform the Veteran Preference in State Hiring and Retention
Also an Executive Order by Governor LePage, LD 1658 enhances the veteran hiring preference for State of Maine jobs by:
- Creating a hiring preference where every veteran who applies for a job with the State of Maine – and meets the minimum requirements for that job - is guaranteed an interview
- Expanding the pool of eligibility to service members who have been discharged under Other Than Honorable Conditions in the veteran hiring preference
- Extending the veteran hiring preference for State of Maine jobs to Gold Star spouses
The provisions of LD 1658 are due to go into effect in August. Please visit the Bureau of Human Resources website for more information.
Commission to Strengthen and Align Services Provided to Maine Veterans
The Commission to Strengthen and Align Services Provided to Maine Veterans was established by the 127th Legislature (Resolve 2015, chapter 48) to identify barriers to or gaps in services for which veterans are entitled and to make recommendations to address those gaps and barriers.
The Commission examined multiple benefits and services for veterans including; physical and behavioral health care provided at the federal, state and community level; housing and homelessness; employment, education; and the challenges transitioning from duty to civilian life.
Upon its conclusion in January 2016, the Commission produced the following report:
For more information about the Commission, including a list of members and minutes from the Commission's meetings, please visit: http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/opla/veteransservices.htm
Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs
The Committee reviews claims against the State as they relate to: liquor laws; lottery; non-profit and for- profit gambling games of chance, beano, raffles, slot machines, gaming devices); harness racing; off-track betting; election laws; campaign practices; campaign financing and the Maine Clean Election Act; voter registration; initiatives and referenda; governmental ethics; lobbyist registration; landlord-tenant laws; veterans' programs; Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management Services (except the Maine Emergency Management Agency); Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations; and the Maine National Guard.
For a list of Committee members and to find out about more about public hearings for the Committee, please visit: http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/VLA