Utah aims to better serve its veterans

Veterans ignorant of — or bewildered by — an array of services offered by state agencies in Utah will have an easier go of it under proposed legislation.

The Utah Senate has approved SB126 and the House Government Operations Committee on this week unanimously endorsed the bill. It is expected to also pass the House.

The legislation would create a new veterans’ services coordinator position in the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs and mandate that certain state agencies pick an employee to zero in on veterans issues.

The bill originated in the Veterans Reintegration Task Force, a panel the Legislature created last year, said Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, co-chairman of the task force and SB126 sponsor.

The task force, which the Legislature is likely to renew for a second year, was scathing in its final report about coordination among state agencies.

“To a great degree, state agencies provide an uncoordinated approach to supporting veterans, functioning in silos that create inefficiencies resulting in increased tax burdens to the taxpayer,” it said.

“One of the things we discovered is … there has not been a good line of coordination and communication between the state office (Department of Veterans Affairs) and the agencies that provide services,” Knudson told the House committee this week.

The new veterans services coordinator would identify which agencies provide services for veterans and coordinate with their new veterans-affairs specialists. The departments of Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Workforce Services, Health, the Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing, and all state institutions of higher education would appoint specialists.

Each of those agencies would have to post on their websites the contact information for the agency’s veterans specialist and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ veterans coordinator.

 

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