For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009
Trio of Democratic Bills Aimed to Help
Oklahoma Veterans Pass Senate Committees
Access to Health Care and Education for Oklahoma
Soldiers Clear First Legislative Hurdle
A trio of bills being pushed by Senate Democrats
aimed at providing relief to Oklahoma’s veterans passed
out of Senate committees today. Senate Bill 59 by Senator Andrew
Rice is aimed at providing health care to veterans who do not
qualify for medical coverage through their employer or through
VA benefits and Senate Bill 255 by Senator Tom Ivester and Senate
Bill 467 by Senator Kenneth Corn both seek to waive tuition expenses
for Oklahoma veterans attending Oklahoma colleges and universities.
“Those who sacrificed their own personal
safety to protect the values that we as Oklahomans hold dear deserve
access to affordable health care and the opportunity to obtain
a quality education,” Democratic Leader Charlie Laster (D-Shawnee)
said. “Too often these men and women come home from being
deployed and find they are without healthcare and need further
education and training to find a good job. That’s just not
right and we have a moral obligation to help them.”
Senator Rice explained one out of every eight veterans
across the country goes without health care because they simply
fall through the cracks.
“There is a common misconception that all
veterans qualify for free health care through the U.S. Veterans
Affairs Department, but sadly this isn't the case," said
Rice. "Thousands of vets are falling through the cracks.
They make too much to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA
care, but are too poor to afford private coverage."
The Oklahoma City Democrat explained Senate Bill
59 expands the Oklahoma Employer/Employee Partnership for Insurance
Coverage Program (O-EPIC), also known as the Insure Oklahoma program,
to include certain qualified veterans. Like other participants
of Insure Oklahoma, veterans would pay a portion of their monthly
premiums based on their annual household income. For individuals,
this is up to just over $51 and to nearly $69 for an individual
and a spouse.
“There are no words to thank these brave
individuals for their work, but we can help make sure that they
have adequate access to healthcare,” Rice said. “It's
a small price to pay compared to all they have done for us."
The bills by Ivester, a Democrat from Sayre, and
Corn, a Democrat from Poteau, will allow Oklahoma soldiers to
attend an Oklahoma university or college tuition free if they
have been honorably discharged from any branch of the military.
“Soldiers returning from war often times
find themselves without work and in need of a higher education
and many of them simply cannot afford the expenses that come with
obtaining the skills necessary to transition into civilian life,”
Ivester, a veteran of the War on Terror and author of SB 255 said.
“Providing these men and women tuition assistance allows
them to achieve the skills necessary to find a good-paying job
once they return home from war.”
Senator Kenneth Corn agrees.
“It is simply wrong to ask Oklahoma soldiers
to leave their families, their jobs and sacrifice their lives
and then expect them to return home without the ability to receive
the education they need to find a good-paying job to support their
family,” Corn said. “The legislation by both me and
Senator Ivester send a strong message to our soldiers that we
honor their service to us and value their sacrifices.”