CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Today is Veterans Recognition Day at the Capitol, and three veteran-related bills are up for passage in the House of Delegates. One, dealing with POW/MIA flags, was inspired by a Morgantown veteran.
And two other veteran-related bills should be considered in committee later this week.
HB 2895 would require all 55 counties to fly a standard-sized POW/MIA flag — along with the already required U.S. and West Virginia flags — each day above their courthouses.
Under current law, counties have the option of flying a POW/MIA flag on six days of national observance that Congress has ordered federal facilities to fly the flag.
A similar 2013 bill died.
Lead sponsor Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said the idea came from a suggestion by Mon County veteran Wilbur England.
England is the legislative officer for Westover VFW Post 9916. Asked why it would be important to fly the flag every day, he said that when the servicemen and women signed up, “they didn’t say they were only going to fight for six days a year. So why remember them only six days a year?”
More than 140,000 people are POW or MIA for all U.S. wars, he said. He and his friends served their country and have their medals, but they’re not heroes. “The heroes are still over there somewhere.” Speaking of the MIAs, he said, “It’s important we get these guys home and let other people know we’re still concerned about these guys.”
England wanted to credit Delegate Tony Barill, D-Monongalia, for first sponsoring the bill, along with Fleischauer, Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, and others for their support. “They’ve all been a great help.”
HB 2165 would permit the state to furnish at no charge up to two certified copies of death certificates of an eligible veteran or active military service member where the request is made by an executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate within thirty days of the date of death.
Death certificates cost only $5, but members have said they see the bill as a token of support for the deceased veterans and their families.
HB 4151 permits active-duty veterans who return to the state to apply their relevant military experience toward a professional license; permits active-duty veterans deployed out of state or their spouses to retain a professional license without meeting continuing education requirements, under certain conditions; and permits a military spouse who moves into the state to be issued temporary professional credentials so the spouse can keep working.
Upon passage, all three will go to the Senate.
Fleischuaer is also lead sponsor on two bills expected to get committee consideration this week. HB 4318, calls for various medical professionals to complete two hours of continuing education on mental health issues associated with veterans and their families. The training will include how to ask patients if they or a family member are a veteran, and screening for such things as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk assessment and prevention.
Fleischauer said she was disappointed that some findings she included in her original bill were edited out by committee attorneys. The findings noted that 40-50 percent of veterans who responded to a state survey reported symptoms of depression and PTSD, and 20 percent gave serious thought to suicide. “We really need to make sure health care providers find out about this and have some tools in their toolbox.”
The bill is in House Government Organization.
HB 4350 creates two service medals for West Virginia veterans. One would go to any resident veteran who served for at least 30 days in an armed conflict. The other, higher distinction would go to an eligible veteran who also was awarded a federal achievement, commendation, meritorious service or valor medal.
It’s in the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, is a cosponsor of the Senate twin, SB 468, which is in Senate Government Organization. “We need to remember our veterans, obviously,” he said. West Virginia has the highest per capita number of veterans, and this is just a small gesture of appreciation and recognition.