2022 TNVET Legislative Agenda as unanimously approved by the Board Representatives of each member organization in the state wide conference of July 24, 2021 held in Nashville, TN

1. COVID-DIC –  Request legislation to require coroners and physicians who fill out death certificates for veterans to review VA disability status to determine relationship between veteran’s death and service-connected disability.

Background– When a veteran passes away, the surviving spouse is entitled to Survivor Benefit Payments (SBP), a small stipend for the beneficiary.  If the death is service-connected due to some injury or illness sustained while in the military, the surviving spouse will also receive a Death Indemnity Compensation (DIC).   As an example, if the member is evaluated with hypertension/high blood pressure while in the service and dies from a heart-related issue, the surviving spouse would receive SBP and DIC.  This additional benefit can be critical for surviving families to maintain a modest income.

A situation has arisen during the pandemic which requires action for this a future situations. If a veteran passes from COVID-19 and service-connected disability was a factor, but not included on the death certificate, the veteran’s spouse will not receive any Death Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This situation could be foreseen in other situations as well as the pandemic.

This bill would require those who complete a death certificate to determine if the deceased was a service-connected disabled veteran.  They would then review these disabilities to determine if any were related to the cause of death of the service member and ensure they were included on the death certificate.

Ref: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/04/30/bill-helps-veterans-families-access-benefit-after-coronavirus-deaths.html

Ref:https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/89/text

2. Electronic Voting for Active Duty.  Legislation to allow pilot program to test electronic voting for deployed active duty (includes National Guard and Reserves) service members and families.

Authorize Montgomery County TN to install and test an electronic, absentee voting system for U.S. military and overseas civilians.  The system has received approval for its security measure by the federal government and is in accordance with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 and Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (“MOVE Act”), Subtitle H – Military Voting, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010, PUBLIC LAW 111–84—OCT. 28, 2009

Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Title 2, Chapter 6, Part 5(all sections) – Voting by Military and Overseas Citizens would have to be amended to allow the county to test and use the electronic absentee voting system for  a minimum period of four years or through CY2025, whichever came later.

The amended portions would authorize the following to vote by electronic absentee:

Uniformed services on active duty (to include National Guard, Reserves, Public Health Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), members of the merchant marine, spouses and dependents of those members on active duty, and any other persons, who reside outside the United States dues to government service/assignment and are registered to vote in the Tennessee county of record before leaving the United States.

The electronic absentee request for ballot and submission of completed ballot would still require an electronic handwritten signature that would be compared to that on file.  This may require amendment of TCA 2-6-202 for the purposes of the test.  Any penalties for falsehoods or other deliberate acts inconsistent with state law would apply to the electronic voting process.

The electronic absentee ballot would require a paper copy backup that would be downloaded, printed and scanned in accordance to regular paper absentee ballots.  The appropriate sections of TCA would reflect that requirement.

Below are references/research for your use.  Place your cursor over the reference article name listed and click.  It will take you directly to the source document.

Ref: https://www.fvap.gov/info/reports-surveys/StateoftheMilitaryVoter

Ref: – Federal Absent Uniform Voters and Overseas Voters Act

Ref: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/2020/07/21/west-virginia-officials-want-other-states-to-adopt-online-voting-for-deployed-troops/

Ref: https://www.moaa.org/content/publications-and-media/news-articles/2021-news-articles/advocacy/moaa-supports-legislation-to-make-voting-easier-for-deployed-servicemembers/

Ref: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/07/13/lawmakers-pitch-new-voting-system-us-troops-stationed-overseas.html?ESRC=mr_210719.nl

Ref: https://www.govtech.com/policy/federal-bill-would-allow-online-voting-for-overseas-military

Ref: https://www.duckworth.senate.gov/news/press-releases/duckworth-cornyn-introduce-bipartisan-bill-to-increase-voting-access-for-military-voters

Ref: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-117s2328is/pdf/BILLS-117s2328is.pdf

Ref: https://democracylive.com/

3. Medical Marijuana. Legislation to allow the medical prescribing and usage.  Studies report that medical cannabis has possible benefit for several conditions often experienced by veterans due to their military duty.

TNVET’s legislative committee is in the process of contacting state legislators on this issue.  A review of past state legislation that attempted to legalize medical use of cannabis is underway to either update a past proposal(s) or write a totally new bill using information/ideas from past legislation and/or that is written in other states that have approved medical cannabis use.  Almost all of the states that surround Tennessee have already approved such use or are in the process of doing so.  There is also federal legislation in the works that would allow the states to press ahead with such efforts without any federal interference.  Over 36 states allow medical cannabis usage.  There is growing evidence that such usage may help with a number of medical issues being experienced by military veterans.  The veterans of Tennessee should have the same medical treatment and access as their fellow veterans have in surrounding states.

More details to come. Below are some news articles, references and legislative actions at both the federal level and other states on medical cannabis for your use. Place your cursor over the reference article name listed and click.  It will take you directly to the source document.

Medical Marijuana – Federal

https://www.kriegdevault.com/insights/veterans-medical-marijuana-bills-introduced-ahead-of-military-appreciation-month#:~:text=First%2C%20on%20April%2015%2C%202021%2C%20the%20Veterans%20Medical,Representatives%20Barbara%20Lee%20%28D-CA%29%20and%20Dave%20Joyce%20%28R-OH%29.

Medical Marijuana – Federal

https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hr2588/BILLS-117hr2588ih.pdf

On Medical Marijuana – VA Policy and Veterans -article

https://militarybenefits.info/va-medical-marijuana/

Medical Marijuana – The States

https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx

Medical Marijuana – Georgia

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/georgia-chooses-six-companies-to-receive-medical-marijuana-production-licenses/ar-AAMxUpx

Medical Marijuana – Florida

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017A/8A/BillText/er/PDF

Medical Marijuana – Florida

https://knowthefactsmmj.com/

Medical Marijuana – Alabama

https://www.wtvy.com/2021/05/24/when-will-medical-marijuana-be-available-in-alabama/

Medical Marijuana – Arkansas

https://www.arkansasmarijuanacard.com/arkansas-marijuana-patients-rights

Medical Marijuana – Article

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/08/10/veterans-advocate-medical-marijuana-legalization-south/5539992001/

4. Restoring 2nd Free of Charge Disabled Veteran License Plate.  Second free plate was removed in the 2014 legislative session.  Veterans who qualified for the current one free plate would be restored the privilege to automatically qualify for a free second plate, if needed.

Requires amending Tenn Code Annotated 55-4-256.

Ref: The bill that removed two option – https://trackbill.com/bill/tennessee-house-bill-1736-special-license-plates-as-enacted-revises-and-clarifies-various-provisions-of-law-regarding-veteran-and-military-related-license-plates-amends-tca-title-55-chapter-4-and-chapter-318-of-the-public-acts-of-2013/639425/

Ref: Most recent failed action (2019) to restore the two plate option – https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/SB0514.pdf