BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                            



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                                    THIRD READING


          Bill No:  AB 717
          Author:   Chávez (R)
          Amended:  3/21/13 in Assembly
          Vote:     21


           SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE  :  7-0, 6/11/13
          AYES:  Hueso, Knight, Block, Correa, Lieu, Nielsen, Roth
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Vacancy

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  Senate Rule 28.8

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR :  75-0, 5/9/13 (Consent) - See last page for vote


           SUBJECT  :    Veterans

           SOURCE  :     California State Commanders Veterans Council


           DIGEST  :    This bill requires the California Veterans Board  
          (Board) to serve as an advisory body to the Secretary of the  
          Department of Veterans of Affairs (CalVet Secretary) and  
          eliminates certain qualifications to be a member of the Board,  
          and requires every Board member to be a member in good standing  
          with a congressionally chartered veteran service organization.   
          This bill also deletes specified reporting requirements of the  
          Board and requires the CalVet Secretary and the Board to seek to  
          confer with the California State Commanders Veterans Council  
          (Council) at least twice per calendar year on issues affecting  
          California veterans.


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          ANALYSIS  :    

          Existing law:

          1.Provides that the Board shall determine the policies for all  
            CalVet departmental operations.

          2.Requires the seven-member Board to be appointed by the  
            Governor and confirmed by the Senate for four-year terms.

          3.Requires members to meet the definition of "veteran" contained  
            in Govt. Code Sec.18540.4.

          4.Requires that five of the Board positions be uniquely defined  
            and filled by individuals, who meet specified categories of  
            education, training, professional expertise, or personal  
            experiences.

          This bill:

          1.Changes the Board's role from determining CalVet policies to  
            serving as an advisory body to the CalVet Secretary.

          2.Repeals the categorical requirements for four of the five  
            Board positions that have eligibility defined by educational  
            or experience.

          3.Requires that every Board member be a member in good standing  
            with a congressionally chartered veteran service organization.

          4.Provides that nothing in the bill be construed to prohibit any  
            currently serving Board members from completing their terms.

          5.Requires the CalVet Secretary and the Board to seek to confer  
            with the Council at least twice per calendar year on issues  
            affecting California veterans.

           Background
           
           Role of the Board  .  CalVet was established in 1921 to provide  
          the state's veterans with low-cost home and farm loans,  
          assistance in obtaining veterans' benefits, and various levels  

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          of care at three residential facilities.  To set policy for  
          CalVet and provide veterans a forum to appeal departmental  
          decisions denying services, the Legislature established the  
          Board in 1946.  State statutes give the Board broad  
          policy-making authority over CalVet.

          The State Auditor released an audit in June 2003, which severely  
          indicted the Board.  The audit report stated: 

               "The Board of seven volunteers has established itself as an  
               ineffective policy-maker, unable to strengthen weaknesses  
               in the department's administration of veterans' programs  
               that the Bureau of State Audits (Bureau) has reported over  
               the past three years.  As an example of the Board's  
               inability to effect strong policy, only half of its 32  
               policies provide direction for departmental operations.   
               Further, although the Bureau and other oversight agencies  
               have identified a number of problems within the department,  
               the Board has no clearly defined policies to guide and  
               monitor the department's corrective actions.  The Board  
               also has not used the services of the inspector general for  
               veterans' affairs to review the department's operations in  
               areas where Board policy could improve the department's  
               delivery of services to veterans."

          (The California Performance 2004 report on streamlining  
          government recommended that the Board be eliminated and its  
          functions performed within a newly modified Department of  
          Veterans Affairs.  That elimination did not occur.)

          The audit report offered several recommendations to the Board.   
          The list included the following:

               "Assert its policy-making authority by actively identifying  
               areas of the department's operations that it feels need  
               guidance or direction and developing meaningful policies  
               that provide the department with the guiding principles  
               necessary to complete its mission."

              "To enable Board members to perform their policy-making and  
              oversight functions effectively, the Board should provide  
              training to its members on the laws and regulations  
              controlling veterans' affairs; board policies, duties, and  
              authority, including how to conduct appeals; departmental  

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              operations; state laws regarding open meetings; and state  
              laws regarding the privacy of medical information."



           California State Commanders Veterans Council  .  Fifty-plus years  
          old, the Council is a group of 22 veterans service organizations  
          and other military-related entities.  Its mission is to evaluate  
          pending state legislation affecting California's veterans,  
          whether active, reserve, National Guard, or retired.

           Congressionally chartered veterans organizations  .  Veterans  
          Service Organizations (VSOs) are non-profit organizations  
          dedicated to supporting veterans and their families.  Some VSOs  
          are congressionally chartered and have legal federal recognition  
          or approval for the purposes of preparing, presenting, and  
          prosecuting claims under laws administered by the United States  
          Department of Veterans Affairs, as provided in Title 38 of the  
          U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.

          Among the better known congressionally chartered VSOs are the  
          American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign  
          Wars, AMVETS, Marine Corps League, Order of the Purple Heart,  
          and Vietnam Veterans of America.

           Prior Legislation
           
          AB 2784 (Committee on Veterans Affairs, 2010) would have:  (1)  
          expanded the Board to nine members; (2) required that two  
          members of the Board be appointed from Operation Iraqi Freedom  
          or Operation Enduring Freedom; (3) added mental health  
          counseling to an aspect of qualifications that can be considered  
          for appointing a member of the Board; (4) prohibited the CalVet  
          Secretary from making policy recommendations without first  
          briefing the Board; and (5) encouraged the Governor to appoint a  
          member with expertise in women's mental and physical health  
          issues.  This bill was vetoed by the Governor.

          SB 164 (Johannessen, Chapter 220, Statutes of 2001) made several  
          reforms to streamline Board operations, including changing the  
          reporting requirements and separating out the annual budget.   
          CalVet provides support to the Board; this measure ensured that  
          adequate office space and meeting space are also provided, and  
          that there is easy access for disabled veterans.

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           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  Yes    
          Local:  No

           SUPPORT  :   (Verified  6/28/13)

          California State Commanders Veterans Council (source)


           ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT  :    According to the author's office, this  
          bill will replace the professional requirements for appointees  
          to the California Veterans Board with the requirement of  
          appointees being a member of a congressionally chartered  
          veterans' organization.  This change will increase the number of  
          qualified applicants, and will ensure those appointed are  
          veterans who are aware of the issues today's veterans face.

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  75-0, 5/9/13
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Bigelow, Bloom,  
            Blumenfield, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Brown,  
            Buchanan, Ian Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chávez, Chesbro, Conway,  
            Cooley, Dahle, Daly, Dickinson, Eggman, Fong, Fox, Frazier,  
            Beth Gaines, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gordon, Gorell, Gray,  
            Grove, Hagman, Hall, Harkey, Roger Hernández, Jones,  
            Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Lowenthal, Maienschein, Mansoor,  
            Medina, Melendez, Mitchell, Morrell, Mullin, Muratsuchi,  
            Nazarian, Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Patterson, Perea, V. Manuel  
            Pérez, Quirk, Quirk-Silva, Rendon, Salas, Skinner, Stone,  
            Ting, Torres, Wagner, Weber, Wieckowski, Wilk, Williams,  
            Yamada, John A. Pérez
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Donnelly, Holden, Logue, Waldron, Vacancy


          AL:ej  7/1/13   Senate Floor Analyses 

                           SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

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