Veteran Legislation Moves Forward in Louisiana

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New veteran legislation has been approved and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal.

House Bill 654 by Representative Nick Lorusso expands residential lease protections for military service members and their spouses. Lorusso said the bill protects military personnel and spouses from unfair and overly strict residential practices.

The bill expands current lease protections for spouses and service members who have been injured and required at least a 15 day hospitalization, as well as those killed during active duty. The bill also requires lessors to pay court costs, attorney’s fees and putative damages in the event of a suit against a lessor violating the terms of the law.

Jindal also signed Senate Bill 538 by Senator John Smith. The Staff Sergeant William Austin Daniel Military Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2014 creates a voluntary registry for veterans exposed to dangerous burn pits during wartime.

The legislation allows for creation of a registry, managed by the Louisiana Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The LDVA will be responsible for informing those on the registry about scientific development on the effects of exposure, treatments and benefits with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.

For the first time service members and veterans exposed to burn pits will be able to stay informed about treatment and research available for illnesses such as Hogdkin’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Prostate Cancer; illnesses linked to exposure to burn pits.

The bill, named after Louisiana Army National Guard Sgt. William Austin Daniel who died after a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease after serving near open air burn pits.Both bills, included in the Governor’s Legislative Package for 2014 are a step in the right direction.

However,thanks to two long-delayed clinics located in Lake Charles and Lafayette, concerns on where to receive quality health care plagues veterans.”We’ve been fighting and struggling to get the money to build these clinics,” said U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu whose recent health provision will allow veterans to go to any hospital in this region until the clinics can be built.

“At least it will give about 20 thousand veterans in this region out of about 300,000 in our state the ability to access good quality care quickly and close to home.”Lawmakers say recent legislation is only the first building blocks in what will hopefully be a solid foundation for veteran care and support.

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