BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                        SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
                              Senator Ben Hueso, Chair
                                               


          BILL NO:  AB 151                   HEARING DATE: 7/9/13
          AUTHOR:   Olsen
          VERSION:  6/19/13
          FISCAL:   No
          VOTE:     Majority





                                        SUBJECT  
          
          Local government: disabled veterans: assistance.
           
           
                                      DESCRIPTION  
           
          Existing law:
           Authorizes a county board of supervisors to grant financial  
          assistance, relief, and support (as specified) to indigent  
          veterans.
           
          This bill:
           Authorizes a county board of supervisors to grant financial  
          assistance, relief, and support to a disabled veteran (as  
          defined).

           
                                     BACKGROUND  
          
           State veterans benefits
           Although most veterans benefits are provided by the federal  
          government, California offers several programs to support  
          veterans. A partial list includes:

                 Waiver of college tuition fees for veterans' dependents  
               at community colleges, the CSU and UC system.
                 Free "DV" handicap parking license plates for qualified  
               veterans.
                 Waiver of municipal, county and state business license  
               fees and taxes for veterans for specified business  









               activities.
                 Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) Program,
                 Preference in civil service examinations.




           Local government assistance to indigent veterans
           Existing law allows county boards of supervisors to provide  
          financial assistance to indigent veterans. More specifically,  
          Military and Veterans (MilVets) Code Section 921 provides that:

           "The board of supervisors of any county may grant financial  
           assistance, relief, and support to indigent veterans. Such  
           assistance, relief, and support shall be administered through  
           and by any military, naval, or marine organization created for  
           the purpose of aiding, relieving and supporting such veterans  
           under the terms and conditions set forth in this article."

          The above MilVets 921 provision applies to an indigent person  
          who qualifies as a veteran, as defined (in preceding 920) as:

           " . . . (A) person who has been honorably discharged from the  
           United States Army, United States Navy, United States Air  
           Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Coast Guard,  
           the Merchant Marine, or the American Red Cross, and who has  
           served in any war."

           Similar programs for disabled veterans
           The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides federal  
          grants to military servicemembers and veterans with certain  
          permanent and total service-connected disabilities to help  
          purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing  
          home to accommodate a disability. Two grant programs exist: the  
          Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing  
          Adaptation (SHA) grant.

                 Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant
               SAH grants help veterans with certain service-connected  
               disabilities live independently in a barrier-free  
               environment. SAH grants can be used in one of the following  
               ways:
          
          AB 151 (Olsen)                                              2
          











               -      Construct a specially adapted home on land to be  
                 acquired
               -      Build a home on land already owned if it is suitable  
                 for specially adapted housing
               -      Remodel an existing home if it can be made suitable  
                 for specially adapted housing
               -      Apply the grant against the unpaid principal  
                 mortgage balance of an adapted home already acquired  
                 without the assistance of a VA grant

                 Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant
               SHA grants help veterans with certain service-connected  
               disabilities adapt or purchase a home to accommodate the  
               disability. SHA grants may be used in one of the following  
               ways:

               -      Adapt an existing home the veteran or a family  
                 member already owns in which the veteran lives
               -      Adapt a home the veteran or family member intends to  
                 purchase in which the Veteran will live
               -      Help a Veteran purchase a home already adapted in  
                 which the veteran will live

           
                                      COMMENTS  
          
           Author comments  :

            "Each county is entitled to collect fees for home  
            modifications, improvements, and inspections.  Many military  
            members who have returned home from active duty must retrofit  
            their homes in some fashion to accommodate disabilities and  
            other injuries sustained during service.  The process is often  
            drawn out and expensive.  This becomes a burden for those who  
            are trying to readjust to civilian life?Counties are able to  
            waive fees for low-income veterans, but would like to be able  
            to extend this service to disabled veterans."

           Committee staff comments  :

          1.This bill is somewhat similar to AB 1592 (Olsen, 2012). That  
          
          AB 151 (Olsen)                                              3
          










            bill cleared the Assembly Floor 76-0, but died after being  
            held in Senate Rules without referral to a policy committee.  
            Sponsored by Mono County, AB 1592 would have permitted cities  
            and counties to waive certain local government fees for  
            disabled veterans for the modification of a dwelling owned by  
            the disabled veteran for the purpose of making the dwelling  
            more accessible. The author/sponsor's purported intent was  
            that "counties like Mono" would like to help disabled veterans  
            return to civilian life, just as they are currently able to do  
            for indigent veterans."  They believe that this bill will  
            "allow local jurisdictions the option of reducing or waiving  
            building inspection and permit fees for ADA-type modifications  
            to homes owned by veterans with service-related disabilities."

          2.The spirit of this bill is consistent with existing law  
            (Business and Professions Section 16102), which allows  
            eligible veterans "to hawk, peddle and vend any goods, wares  
            or merchandise owned by him or her, as specified, without  
            payment of any business license, tax or fee by any  
            municipality, county or the state."

          3.This bill borrows the definition for "disabled veteran" used  
            to establish eligibility for the DVBE Program (MilVets 999).  
            The DVBE program requires an applicant to be a disabled  
            veteran who is:

              "A veteran of the military, naval, or air service of the  
              United States, including, but not limited to, the Philippine  
              Commonwealth Army, the Regular Scouts, "Old Scouts," and the  
              Special Philippine Scouts, "New Scouts," who has at least a  
              10-percent service-connected disability and who is domiciled  
              in the state."





           Related legislation  :

          - AB 1592 (Olsen, held/died in Senate Rules, 2012)
             Would have allowed a governing board of any county or city to  
             grant financial assistance, relief, and support to disabled  
          
          AB 151 (Olsen)                                              4
          










             veterans by reducing or waiving specified fees for modifying  
             a dwelling for the purpose of greater accessibility to or  
             within that dwelling.


                                  SUPPORT/OPPOSITION  
          
          Sponsor: Author

          Support:

          American Legion-Department of California
          AMVETS-Department of California
          California Association of County Veterans Service Officers  
          (CACVSOs)
          California State Association of Counties (CSAC)
          California State Commanders Veterans Council
          Mono, County Board of Supervisors
          Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC)
          San Diego, County of
          Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)-Department of California
          Vietnam Veterans of America-California State Council

          Oppose: None received
          
          Analysis by: Wade Cooper Teasdale
















          
          AB 151 (Olsen)                                              5