Kentucky Vets Hung Out to Dry -- Where's Beshear, Conway?
Kentucky Veterans When a vet returns home, the federal government steps up with a few perks to thank them for their service. Most states offer benefits, as well. According to military.com:
State benefits range from free college and employment resources to free hunting and fishing licenses. Most states also offer tax breaks for their veterans and specialized license plates, some states even provide their veterans with cash bonuses just for serving in the military.
Kentucky has offered a cash bonus to its veterans for many years. Chapter 40 of the KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) focuses on Kentucky veterans. Section 40.005 outlines a $300-$500 cash bonus for vets from the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict. Section 40.440 outlines pretty much the same thing for Vietnam vets: a cash bonus based on time in the service with a cap of $500. Although Kentuckians have certainly been joining up and shipping off since Vietnam, there was no bonus in place for any service person after that conflict. Veterans between the late 1970s and early 2000s -- collectively known as our Gulf War-era veterans -- weren't receiving a benefit. Then, in 2006, with an eye to rectifying this once and for all, the Kentucky General Assembly passed HB314 -- unanimously in both chambers -- implementing a different bonus: a personal loan program for Kentucky's newest veterans for up to $10,000 at reduced interest. This loan was to be used to help veterans get back on their feet after risking life, fortune and sacred honor for their country. The money would come from the Veteran's Trust Fund, which is funded by the state income tax checkoff, plus the sale of veteran vehicle license plates. This sounds perfectly reasonable and admirable, yes?
Sounds good, but guess what?
Even though the bill was signed into law in 2006, and promises made to Kentucky veterans, nothing has been done to implement this program! Nada. So not only have none of our service men and women since the late 1970s received the same bonus given to previous generations of veterans, they don't get to apply for the loan either! Even though the legislature and the KDVA (Ky Depart of Veterans Affairs) have promised it since 2006. Nice way to treat people who have risked everything for you, right? Let's back up a little. HB314's resulting statute KRS 40.650 requires the KDVA to promulgate rules and regulations for the loan program:
It's been a decade since that bill was passed and the statute entered on the books. Kentucky veterans have gone off to serve believing that when they came home, they could apply for a $10,000 loan to get them started in civilian life. Yet, today, almost 10 years later, those regulations have never been promulgated. In 2011, a veteran friend of mine wrote to Beshear asking about this. Beshear passed it to Kenneth Lucas, then Commissioner of the KDVA. Lucas replied saying those regs HAD been promulgated. Huh? Yesterday, I called the LRC and searched the KAR, but they are nowhere to be found.
Next I called the office of the current KDVA Commissioner, Heather French Henry. Maybe I just couldn't find them? I was told no, the regs aren't promulgated. That won't happen till after the program has been funded. Why would Lucas lie? So, 10 years later, not a penny has been funded, not a reg written, not a single loan made to a Kentucky veteran, not a single bonus paid. Although somehow this "benefit" made it to the military.com site. Click on Kentucky on the main page and you read this:
It's not about the money.
How can Kentucky make this promise of a hand up, make it for 10 years, then just never follow through? Just leave veterans hanging? Have them call to find out where to apply only to be told, "Oh sorry, we never got around to funding that. We did pass a sweet pension bill, though. Well, good luck." Advocates of the program are understandably upset about this. They have been asking Kentucky's GA to obey the law and have been virtually ignored. Steve Beshear's administration has failed to make this right. In 2012, Ky House Rep Richard Henderson filed a bill to fund the Veterans' Personal Loan Program with $5,000,000. It died in Committee. Which committee? The Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Safety Committee. Seriously. The Beshear administration found $400,000,000 to build a website, but the Veteran's Affairs Committee couldn't find FIVE for our veterans?
This needs to be fixed.
It's immoral, unethical and illegal to keep making a promise you KNOW you won't keep! Lucas knew it, Henry knows it, Beshear knows it. Plenty of Ky GA legislators know about it and have known about it for years. They all say they'll "look into it." Henry and two legislators who currently sit on the Veterans' Affairs Committee said these exact words just 6 weeks ago! Instead, we get the same old song and dance. Sadly, us everyday citizens are so used to it, some of us sing along. But to sock it to veterans, their widows and families this way? That's just about as low as it gets.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I spoke to Matt Bevin about this last Sunday before the EKU debate. He and Jenean Hampton, his running mate, are both veterans. He got the picture immediately, and promised that, as Governor, I could bring this back to him and he'll do everything he can to fix it. He won't "look into it", he'll fix it. You bet I'm going to hold him to it. I hope you will, too.
Advocates want this funded or repealed. They want the state of Kentucky to stop lying to its new recruits: "Sign up and get this great bonus." The one that doesn't exist because Kentucky's GA is too busy with today's politically correct agenda.
#1 We take $10,000 annually out of each Kentucky legislator's pension (anyone now getting a pension past, present and future) to fund the program. Kill two birds with one stone. I doubt that will make it out of committee either. #2 One group has put together a viable proposal to fund the program via a joint effort between the KDVA and Kentucky banks. They've also suggested a choice for vets: either get a one-time $500 bonus like other Kentucky veterans have, or apply for the loan. This sounds workable. We just need someone in the #KyGov's seat to care about Kentucky's veterans! My money's on Bevin.
This is worth Kentucky's attention.
The goodwill to be generated by this program is sorely and desperately needed here in Kentucky. Not only would a little trust in state government be reborn when the program is finally implemented and we stop lying to our veterans, but the true intent of Kentucky's Gulf War-era Veteran's Bonus program would be realized: a hand up to the men and women who risked everything for us. It's about time, don't you think?