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How California Plans to Help Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

spirit

By Debbie Gregory.

Hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been diagnosed with some level of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the past decade, many as a result of combat injury. TBI can have long-term and  often times severe effects on service members’ lives, affecting their ability to work, interact with others, manage basic living tasks, and even interact with their own families.

The California Legislature hopes that Senate Bill 197 will help restore the lives of the state’s military veterans suffering with TBI.

SB 197 would waive the California sales tax on building materials and supplies purchased for the construction of specified military and veteran medical facilities.

“SB 197 is about stretching charitable dollars farthest and adding additional medical care infrastructure at the lowest possible cost,” said Republican Senator Patricia Bates, one of the bill’s authors.

After the Senate’s recent unanimous approval, the last hurdle for the bill is for the Assembly Appropriations Committee to release it from the suspense file.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, in collaboration with one of California’s top brain injury experts and a nationwide team of doctors and researchers has been working breakthrough treatments for TBI while building dedicated facilities on military bases to implement these revolutionary methods.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has paid for, built and donated to the Army the burn and prostheses facility at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the Center for the Intrepid.

In 2008, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund partnered with Dr. David Hovda, director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center and 24 additional institutions doing brain research to take a new approach to TBI treatment.

The fund also paid for, built and donated a TBI and post-traumatic stress research center on the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus in Bethesda, Md., outside Washington.

In total, nine rehabilitation centers, called Intrepid Spirit Centers, will be built by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund on military bases. In May, IFHF and the Navy broke ground at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton on the seventh center.

SB 197 would waive the California sales tax on purchases made to build the Pendleton center. For state government, that cost is small, a little over $200,000 – less than what the state might spend on a veteran who, because of TBI-related drug abuse, did not have an honorable discharge, and so was denied VA benefits and on Medi-Cal and public assistance. But for a nonprofit in a race to save more service members, that small amount is huge.

When the Assembly Appropriations Committee moves SB 197 out of the suspense file and to the Assembly floor, the entire State Legislature will be able to demonstrate California’s gratitude to those who have given and sacrificed so much.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

CA Lawmakers Consider Legal Aid for Deported Vets

deported

By Debbie Gregory.

The California legislature is considering AB 386, a bill introduced by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher that would create a legal assistance fund for veterans who have been deported. The bill has been passed by the Assembly without any dissenting votes and now goes to the Senate.

Veterans who run afoul of the law can be deported after serving time in jail or prison because they’re not citizens.

“Immigrants who serve and fight for our country earn the right to become citizens. That’s common sense, it’s a powerful way to recruit bright and talented young men and women, and it’s federal law. But instead of keeping our promises, we’ve kicked these veterans out of the country they fought for,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “They’ve earned the right to return to this country as Americans, and make restitution for their mistakes as Americans.”

“People make mistakes,” said Gonzalez Fletcher, noting that “a lot” of those mistakes are caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When someone is willing to die for this country and give us everything that they have … we just thought it was time to figure out a way to get them back home,” she said.

In order to qualify for legal aid under the bill, a veteran would have to provide evidence of current or prior California residency, which could be graduating from a state high school, having a spouse or child currently living in California, or being stationed in the state for military training.

The Deported Veterans Support House, founded by Army veteran Hector Barajas in Tijuana, estimates that it has been in contact with over 100 veterans who have been deported.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brown pardoned three military veterans, including Barajas, who were deported, removing one obstacle to their return.

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside) supports the bill. As the co-chair of the Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee, the former Marine has tended to vote against legislation that would assist immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

But Chávez feels it’s a different matter when it comes to legal residents who served alongside citizens.

“These individuals were in the foxhole fighting together,” said Chávez. “Both of them were suffering the same horrors of combat together.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.