Oakley lawmaker introduces veterans bill

By ROWENA COETSEE | Contra Costa Times | Published: February 22, 2013

SACRAMENTO -- State legislation proposed this week would make it more convenient for former members of the military to claim the benefits they're entitled to.

State Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, on Wednesday introduced Assembly Bill 531, which would allow California's veterans to apply for a driver's license or identification card imprinted with the word "VETERAN."

Having this form of identification in their wallet would make it easier for California's approximately 1.8 million veterans to access an array of government services from help finding employment and housing to health, counseling and educational benefits. Military personnel currently must produce the certificate that was issued when they were

discharged from active duty.

Veterans also could flash the specialized driver's license in stores that offer discounts to military personnel.

In addition, some proponents of the bill say the veteran designation could provide helpful insight to law enforcement officers responding to incidents involving former members of the military who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

Impetus for AB 531 came in part from a similar bill introduced last year. That bill died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee because of concerns about how much it would cost the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Frazier, who co-authored the bill with four others, will try to address concerns about cost once

the bill reaches that committee, a spokesman said.

The freshman assemblyman says he also wanted to honor veterans' service, noting that his uncle and mentor died at 53 from an illness linked to his combat experience in Vietnam.

If both houses approve AB 531, it could be signed into law by this fall.

Driver's license applicants would have to pay an additional, and as-yet unspecified, fee, $1 of which would go into the state's Veterans Service Office Fund. The fund supports counties' veterans service offices with revenue from the sale of specialized license plates honoring ex-military personnel.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.


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