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2018 SESSION

18101227D
SENATE BILL NO. 325
Offered January 10, 2018
Prefiled January 8, 2018
A BILL to amend and reenact 2.2-2000, 2.2-2001, 2.2-2001.1, 2.2-2004, and 2.2-4310.2 of the Code of Virginia and to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 2.2-2000.1, relating to the Department of Veterans Services.
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Patrons-- Ruff and DeSteph; Delegate: Bell, John J.
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Referred to Committee on General Laws and Technology
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Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That 2.2-2000, 2.2-2001, 2.2-2001.1, 2.2-2004, and 2.2-4310.2 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted and that the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 2.2-2000.1 as follows:

2.2-2000. Department of Veterans Services created; appointment of Commissioner.

A. There shall be a Department of Veterans Services (the Department), which shall be headed by a Commissioner appointed by the Governor subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. The Commissioner shall be a veteran who has received an honorable discharge from the armed forces Armed Forces of the United States. He shall report directly to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs on behalf of the Governor and shall hold his office at the pleasure of the Governor for a term of five years.

B. The Commissioner of the Department shall, under the direction and control of the Governor, exercise powers and perform duties conferred or imposed upon him by law and perform such other duties as may be required by the Governor and the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.

2.2-2000.1. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Active military, naval, or air service members" means military service members who perform full-time duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or a reserve component thereof, including the National Guard.

"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services appointed pursuant to 2.2-2000.

"Department" means the Department of Veterans Services established pursuant to 2.2-2000.

"Service-connected" means, with respect to disability, that such disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.

"Service disabled veteran" means a veteran who (i) served in the active military, naval, or air service, (ii) was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and (iii) has a service-connected disability rating fixed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Service disabled veteran-owned business" means a business concern that is at least 51 percent owned by one or more service disabled veterans or, in the case of a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity, at least 51 percent of the equity ownership interest in the corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity is owned by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans and both the management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans.

"Veteran" means an individual who has served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.

2.2-2001. Administrative responsibilities of the Department; annual report.

A. The Department shall be responsible to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs on behalf of the Governor for the establishment, operation, administration, and maintenance of offices and programs related to services for Virginia-domiciled veterans of the armed forces Armed Forces of the United States and their eligible spouses, orphans, and dependents. Such services shall include, but not be limited to, benefits claims processing and all medical care centers and cemeteries for veterans owned and operated by the Commonwealth.

Subject to the availability of sufficient nongeneral fund revenues, including, but not limited to, private donations and federal funds, the Department shall work in concert with applicable State state and Federal federal agencies to develop and deploy an automated system for the electronic preparation of veterans' disability claims that ensures the collection of the necessary information to expedite processing of Virginia veterans' disability claims. The Department's development and deployment work shall be appropriately phased to minimize risk and shall include an initial replacement of the Department's existing case management technology, which replacement is required to support highly sophisticated electronic claims preparation. The Commissioner shall ensure that the system is efficient and statutorily compliant.

B. From such funds as may be appropriated or otherwise received for such purpose, the Department shall provide burial vaults at cost to eligible veterans and their family members interred at state-operated veterans cemeteries.

C. The Department shall establish guidelines for the determination of eligibility for Virginia-domiciled veterans and their spouses, orphans, and dependents for participation in programs and benefits administered by the Department. Such guidelines shall meet the intent of the federal statutes and regulations pertaining to the administration of federal programs supporting U.S. Armed Forces veterans and their spouses, orphans, and dependents.

D. The Department shall adopt reasonable regulations to implement a program to certify, upon request of the small business owner, that he holds a "service disabled veteran" status.

E. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:

"Active military, naval, or air service members" means military service members who perform full-time duty in the armed forces of the United States, or a reserve component thereof, including the National Guard.

"Service-connected" means, with respect to disability that such disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.

"Service disabled veteran" means a veteran who (i) served on active duty in the United States military ground, naval, or air service, (ii) was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and (iii) has a service-connected disability rating fixed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Service disabled veteran business" means a business concern that is at least 51 percent owned by one or more service disabled veterans or, in the case of a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity, at least 51 percent of the equity ownership interest in the corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity is owned by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans and both the management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans.

"Veteran" means an individual who has served in the active military, naval or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.

The Department shall submit an annual report through the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before December 1 of each year and other reports to the Secretary as required by the Secretary. The annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly shall be submitted for publication as a report document as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports and shall be posted on the General Assembly's website.

2.2-2001.1. Program for mental health and rehabilitative services.

A. The Department, in cooperation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, shall establish a program to monitor and coordinate mental health and rehabilitative services support for Virginia veterans and members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service. The program shall also support family members affected by covered military members' service and deployments. The purpose of the program is to, in a cost-effective manner, refer veterans to mental health, physical rehabilitation, and other services as needed to help them achieve individually identified goals and to periodically monitor their progress toward achieving those goals.

B. The program shall, subject to the availability of public and private funds appropriated for such purposes, (i) build awareness of veterans' service needs and the availability of the program through marketing, outreach, training for first responders, service providers, and others; (ii) collaborate with relevant agencies of the Commonwealth, localities, and service providers; (iii) develop and implement a consistent method of determining how many veterans in the Commonwealth are in need of mental health, physical rehabilitation, or other services currently or may be in need of such services in the future; (iv) work with veterans to develop a coordinated resources plan that identifies appropriate service providers to meet the veteran's service needs; (v) refer veterans to appropriate and available providers on the basis of needs identified in the coordinated resources plan; and (vi) monitor progress toward individually identified goals in accordance with the coordinated resource plan.

Coordinated resources plans shall be developed and veterans shall be referred to necessary services in a timely manner. The program shall prioritize veterans served on the basis of the immediacy and severity of service needs and the likelihood that those needs are attributable to the veteran's military service or combat experience.

C. The program shall cooperate with localities that may establish special treatment procedures for veterans and active military service members such as authorized by 9.1-173 and 9.1-174. To facilitate local involvement and flexibility in responding to the problem of crime in local communities and to effectively treat, counsel, rehabilitate, and supervise veterans and active military service members who are offenders or defendants in the criminal justice system and who need access to proper treatment for mental illness including major depression, alcohol or drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or a combination of these, any city, county, or combination thereof, may develop, establish, and maintain policies, procedures, and treatment services for all such offenders who are convicted and sentenced for misdemeanors or felonies that are not felony acts of violence, as defined in 19.2-297.1. Such policies, procedures, and treatment services shall be designed to provide:

1. Coordination of treatment and counseling services available to the criminal justice system case processing;

2. Enhanced public safety through offender supervision, counseling, and treatment;

3. Prompt identification and placement of eligible participants;

4. Access to a continuum of treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling services in collaboration with such care providers as are willing and able to provide the services needed;

5. Where appropriate, verified participant abstinence through frequent alcohol and other drug testing;

6. Prompt response to participants' noncompliance with program requirements;

7. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of program effectiveness and efficiency;

8. Ongoing education and training in support of program effectiveness and efficiency;

9. Ongoing collaboration among public agencies, community-based organizations and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans and military family support organizations; and

10. The creation of a veterans and military service members' advisory council to provide input on the operations of such programs. The council shall include individuals responsible for the criminal justice procedures program along with veterans and, if available, active military service members.

D. The program Department shall report annually program results to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly. The report shall include the number of veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members affected by covered military members' service and deployments for whom coordinated resources plans are developed and who are referred for services; information about services provided to veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard, members of the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members, including information about the types of services provided and the quality of those services; and the number of veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard, members of the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members identified by the program as in need of services but not referred for services.

2.2-2004. Additional powers and duties of Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall have the following powers and duties related to veterans services:

1. Perform an annual cost-benefit and value analysis of (i) existing programs and services and (ii) new programs and services before establishing and implementing them and report the results of such analysis to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs;

2. Seek alternative funding sources for the Department's veterans service programs;

3. Cooperate with all relevant entities of the federal government, including, but not limited to, the United States U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States U.S. Department of Labor in matters concerning veterans benefits and services;

4. Appoint a full-time coordinator to collaborate with the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations created in 2.2-2681 on ways to provide both direct and indirect support of ongoing veterans programs, and to determine and address future veterans needs and concerns;

5. Initiate, conduct, and issue special studies on matters pertaining to veterans needs and priorities, as determined necessary by the Commissioner;

6. Evaluate veterans service efforts, practices, and programs of the agencies, political subdivisions or other entities and organizations of the government of the Commonwealth and make recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly on ways to increase awareness of the services available to veterans or improve veterans services;

7. Assist entities of state government and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth in enhancing their efforts to provide services to veterans, those members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves who qualify for veteran status, and their immediate family members, including the dissemination of relevant materials and the rendering of technical or other advice;

8. Assist counties, cities, and towns of the Commonwealth in the development, implementation, and review of local veterans services programs as part of the state program and establish as necessary, in consultation with the Board of Veterans Services and the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, volunteer local and regional advisory committees to assist and support veterans service efforts;

9. Review the activities, roles, and contributions of various entities and organizations to the Commonwealth's veterans services programs and report on or before December 1 of each year in writing to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly on the status, progress, and prospects of veterans services in the Commonwealth, including performance measures and outcomes of veterans services programs;

10. Recommend to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly any corrective measures, policies, procedures, plans, and programs to make service to Virginia-domiciled veterans and their eligible spouses, orphans, and dependents as efficient and effective as practicable;

11. Design, implement, administer, and review, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, special programs or projects needed to promote veterans services in the Commonwealth;

12. Integrate veterans services activities into the framework of economic development activities in general;

13. Manage operational funds using accepted accounting principles and practices in order to provide for a sum sufficient to ensure continued, uninterrupted operations;

14. Engage Department personnel in training and educational activities aimed at enhancing veterans services;

15. Develop a strategic plan to ensure efficient and effective utilization of resources, programs, and services;

16. Certify eligibility for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program and perform other duties related to such Program as outlined in 23.1-608; and

17. Establish and implement a compact with Virginia's veterans, which shall have a goal of making Virginia America's most veteran-friendly state. The compact shall be established in conjunction with the Board of Veterans Services and supported by the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations and shall (i) include specific provisions for technology advances, workforce development, outreach, quality of life enhancement, and other services for veterans and (ii) provide service standards and goals to be attained for each specific provision in clause (i). The provisions of the compact shall be reviewed and updated annually. The Commissioner shall include in the annual report required by this section the progress of veterans services established in the compact.

2.2-4310.2. Executive branch agency's goals for participation by small businesses; requirements.

Any state executive branch agency's goals under 2.2-4310 for participation by small businesses shall include within the goals a minimum of three percent participation by service disabled veteran veteran-owned businesses as defined in 2.2-2001 2.2-2000.1 and 2.2-4310 when contracting for information technology goods and services.

As used in this section, "information technology" and "state "executive branch agency" mean the same as those terms are defined in 2.2-2006.