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Oklahoma State Senate

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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.”

For more information contact:
Sen. Laster's Office: 405-521-5539
Sen. Rice's Office: 405-521-5610
Sen. Corn's Office: 405-521-5576
Sen. Ivester's Office: 405-521-5545

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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