End of the 2021 55th Legislature, First Regular Session Arizona Legislative Session brings changes, expansion of benefits for Veterans

The Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS) is energized by the efforts of Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona State Legislature to support Arizona’s military and Veteran community through the legislative process. 

The Fifty-Fifth Legislature, First Regular Session Arizona Legislative Session passed new bills impacting the military and Veteran community including SB1443, HB2542, SB1802 and SB1827. 

“This budget is a real win for Arizona Veterans,” said ADVS Director Col. Wanda Wright. “It further proves that here in Arizona, we honor and support service members, Veterans and their families. Thank you to Governor Ducey and the Arizona Legislature for investing in Arizona’s military and Veteran Community.”

SB1443 (Military Family Relief Fund), sponsored by Senator Sonny Borrelli (R-LD5) makes improvements to the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) by expanding eligibility criteria. MFRF provides financial assistance to families of currently deployed service members and military and Veteran families that are experiencing financial hardship caused by military service. The expanded eligibility criteria is as follows:

Expands eligibility criteria to include a service member of an applying family who has established residency in this state and be able to provide proof of continuous physical presence in this state for at least twelve months before submitting an application.

States that the financial need must be a result of the service member’s overall military service versus a deployment.

Establishes a deployment date requirement of on or before September 11, 2001 for applications to the Pre-9/11 MFRF and after September 11, 2001 for applications to the Post-9/11 MFRF. 

SB1443 received unanimous support from both the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate and was signed by the Governor on March 18, 2021. SB1443 will become effective September 29, 2021. 

HB2542 (Veteran Suicide Annual Report), sponsored by Representative Justin Wilmeth (R-LD15) amends Arizona Revised Statutes that require the Arizona Department of Health Services to compile an annual report on Veteran suicides in Arizona to include specified data.  In an effort to better identify trends and effective points of intervention, HB2542 adds to the specified date to include utilization and encounter data for Be Connected, a nonprofit Veteran service organization that provides services related to reducing suicides among Arizona's military and Veteran populations. Additionally, HB2542 allows the data that ADVS is required to provide to DHS to include national, state and local sources as available.

HB2542 received unanimous support from both the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate and was signed by the Governor on April 14, 2021. HB2542 will become effective on September 29, 2021. Veterans needing resources, and those who know of a Veteran who needs help, can call Be Connected at 1-866-4AZ-VETS or visit www.BeConnectedAZ.org.

SB1802 (now: holiday; code talkers), sponsored by Senator Jamescita Peshlakai (D-LD7), establishes August 14 as “National Navajo Code Talkers Day,” and requires, if this holiday falls on a day other than Sunday, the Sunday following August 14 to be observed as the holiday.

SB1802 received unanimous support from both the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate and was signed by the Governor on March 29, 2021. SB1802 will become effective September 29, 2021.

In addition to these new bills, through the Arizona State Budget process, ADVS received the following appropriations:

$25,000,000 to construct and establish a State Veteran Home in the Northwestern portion of this state.

Increased appropriations from the State Veteran Home Trust Fund for operating costs for the new Veteran Homes in Yuma and Flagstaff and to increase Arizona State Veteran Home - Tucson’s operating capacity and rehabilitation services for Veterans.

$774,000 for 12 additional Veteran Benefits Counselors.

$100,000 from the Veterans' Income Tax Settlement Fund to distribute to a charitable organization that is qualified under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code, that is located in southern Arizona and that works with regional Veterans organizations to improve services to reduce Veteran suicides.

SB1827 (revenue; budget reconciliation) The Native American Veterans Income Tax Settlement Fund (NASF), established July 1, 2016, refunds Arizona income tax withheld from Alaska Native/American Indian Veterans who served in the active-duty military while claiming tribal land as their domicile. SB1827 extends the fund and allows ADVS to accept claims until December 31, 2022.

Lastly, a portion of the Arizona State budget was appropriated to increase the income tax exemption for the full amount of benefits, annuities, and pensions received by military retirees, retroactive to January 1, 2021 (Tax Year 2021).

 

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