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: Camp Lejeune Globe Covid-DIC article
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.
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.
Ref: – Federal Absent Uniform Voters and Overseas Voters Act
West Virginia officials want other states to adopt online voting for deployed troops (militarytimes.com) – Institute of Veterans and Military Families/MOAA handout;
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.
More details to come.
4. Restoring 2nd Free of Charge Disabled Veteran License Plate. Second free plate was removed in the 2015 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.
More details to come.