The Legislature took the unusual step of enacting a standalone veterans and military affairs appropriations and policy proposal that garnered overwhelming bipartisan support and the resulting new law supplements current funding with an additional $54.55 million in fiscal year 2023.
The law, effective May 11, 2022 unless otherwise noted, appropriates $52.35 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a variety of programs and services. The agency will also receive a $4.09 million increase in its base appropriation for fiscal year 2024 and following.
An additional $2.2 million will go to the Department of Military Affairs, including $2 million in enlistment incentives for the Minnesota National Guard and another $200,000 to the Minnesota Navy League for the commissioning of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Appropriations for the Veterans Affairs Department include:
• $24.88 million for expanded service bonuses to post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star families who currently do not receive these bonuses;
• $5.41 million for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans to establish permanent housing for veterans, former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness;
• $1.71 million for engagement, outreach and support of temporary housing options for veterans;
• $1.1 million for tenancy support and landlord engagement to remove barriers to permanent housing;
• $830,000 for state veterans cemetery operations;
• $774,000 to upgrade the wastewater system for the veterans campground on Big Marine Lake;
• $500,000 to support creation of a Fisher House to provide free temporary accommodations to families and caregivers of veterans receiving care at the Fargo VA Health Care System;
• $450,000 for the county veterans service office grant program; and
• $147,000 for congressionally chartered veterans’ service organization grants.
The law includes $10.33 million in fiscal year 2022, and $16.54 million in fiscal year 2023, for new veterans’ homes in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston. A status report is due the Legislature by Feb. 15, 2023 with a final report due by Feb. 15, 2026 on how the total appropriations were spent.
The law also includes a handful of policy provisions, including:
• establishment of the Veterans Services Organizations Grant Program that will provide grants to congressionally chartered veterans service organizations to enhance the effectiveness of veterans’ services;
• increasing the bonus amount veterans are entitled to receive under the veterans bonus program if the served between Sept. 11, 2001 and Aug. 30, 2021;
• limiting the period for which the eligible member may apply for payment of salary differential to two years after completion of active services, and requires the eligible member be notified of the two-year deadline;
• cancels debt incurred by a current or former state employee due to overpayments of military salary differential; and
• increases the annual grant for which the Minnesota Association of County Veteran Services Officers is eligible from $50,000 to $100,000.
Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls) and Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia) sponsor the law.