Legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio and Senator Vin Gopal that would establish a permanent commission to study the various definitions of veterans and a task force to analyze issues facing returning members of the United States military has unanimously passed the Senate.
Sens. Joe Pennacchio and Vin Gopal’s bill that would establish a commission to study the various definitions of veterans and a task force to analyze issues facing returning members of the military has passed the Senate. (©iStock)
“Unfortunately, there’s so much confusion and ambiguity about the definition and classification of veterans regarding, where they served and how they served. As a result some may qualify for one program but not another,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Establishing a standardized definition of ‘veteran’ will provide clarity and ensure New Jersey can deliver more opportunities and benefits to those who served our country at home and abroad.
“Both the task force and commission will shed light on indispensable insights and actionable recommendations so our State can better support our brave armed service members, and veterans can receive the benefits they rightfully deserve,” Pennacchio said.
The legislation, S-1400, would create a permanent study commission to review the definitions related to veteran status, such as “veteran,” “disabled veteran,” “service-disabled veteran,” and any other definition of a veteran in the statute, and to recommend changes to the definitions in the statutes that may provide greater uniformity and be less restrictive.
New Jersey is known to have the most restrictive and inconsistent definition of veteran, with the parameters sometimes varying from law to law and program to program.
Pennacchio and Gopal’s bill also creates a task force to identify and review the issues and concerns facing members of the United States Armed Forces, New Jersey National Guard, and a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces returning from overseas deployments involving the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It’s no secret that the return to civilian life for our veterans is a difficult transition that often leaves them with few options and insufficient support,” said Senator Gopal (D-Long Branch). “These men and women have sacrificed themselves for our nation, and we owe it to them to ensure they are taken care of when they return home. This task force will help identify and work towards eliminating the issues veterans face when they are back home safe and sound, it’s the very least we can do.”
“Re-adjusting to civilian life after being in the midst of war for months, or even years, is a challenge,” added Pennacchio. “The health and well-being of our military heroes returning home from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq must be made a New Jersey and American priority.”
The task force will: examine current data, research, programs, and initiatives related to the physical, social, emotional, and mental impact of military service upon service members and their families; identify effective strategies for promoting lifelong physical, social, emotional, and mental health of service members and their families; and develop recommendations to implement those strategies, including recommended legislation when necessary.