AARP Maryland Veterans Corner - March 2020

Posted on 03/18/20

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This month's edition of Veterans Corner is written by AARP volunteer and Navy Veteran Brian Smith.

I promised to have a “therapy horse of the month” for March, and I will, but we are starting out with dogs! One of my sponsored doggos, Barney, just reported for advanced training. Barney is more formally known as Hero Dogs Col. Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum, Jr. His namesake is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps legend, who received the Medal of Honor during that conflict. I’ll be visiting Hero Dogs soon to catch up with Barney. New photos to follow!

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K9 Veterans Day
According to History.com, on March 13, 1942 “the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.” Since then, countless dogs have served alongside our military members during times of peace and conflict. Today, military working dogs play an important role in security missions and IED detection. Check out this great K9 Veterans Day video by the MilitaryTimes.

What’s Moving in Annapolis?
The construction on Bladen Street isn’t moving. The MDGA website? Not so much! WIFI connectivity and phone signal strength in the House and Senate buildings? Even less…

How about the legislation, you ask? Well, we are now past the midway point and only a handful of bills have both exited committee and chamber, making their way across the Bladen Street Monument to Eternal Road Improvement, to be considered by the other chamber. Let’s take a look at those cases where the bill has crossed the road:

Delegate Mike Rogers’ HB 12 “Homes for Veterans – Veterans of Uniformed Services” passed the house (133-0) and arrived in the Senate EHEA committee for further consideration. Senator Griffith’s companion bill SB 341 passed the Senate (46-0) and awaits action in House HGO committee. It’s a technical correction that basically changes Veterans Home eligibility from “Armed Services” to “Uniformed Services.” At zero cost, consider this a done deal!

Governor Hogan’s HB 349 “Occupational Licensing – Service Members, Veterans, and Military Spouses” passed the House (139-0) and awaits action in the Senate EHEA. SB 280, the companion bill, just passed the Senate (46-0) and should soon be arriving in House Economic Matters committee for consideration. Another low-cost bill that represents a HUGE win for military spouses seeking employment upon arrival in Maryland!

Delegate Pat Young’s HB 389 “Income Tax Check-off for the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund” passed the House (138-0) and awaits further action in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. There it will linkup with Senator Elfreth’s companion bill SB 203, which has been heard (1/22) but not voted upon. A “no brainer bill” this merely allows Marylanders to donate to the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund when filing their state income tax return. Yet, it has failed in the past. A TRAGEDY IF THIS BILL ENDS UP IN THE DRAWER!

Delegate Pat Young’s HB 597 “Nonresident Tuition Exemption for Spouses and Dependents of Honorably Discharged Veterans” has passed the House (132-0). It has been referred to the Senate EHEA committee where it will be considered along with Senator Elfreth’s companion SB 318, previously heard (2/4). Should be an easy day, an honorably discharged Veteran moves away, spouse or child remain eligible for in-state tuition.

I could donate an entire blog post to Senator Simonaire, who submitted his homework early and has moved an AMAZING seven Veterans-related bills | SB 25, 84, 86, 90, 128, 142, 324 | across the street for consideration by various House committees! WELL DONE!

Be sure to follow my Free State Veterans blog for weekly updates on the Maryland General Assembly!

Operation Tohidu® 2020
Melwood is a Maryland-based nonprofit organization “providing jobs and opportunities for people of differing abilities in the greater Washington, DC area. It is an exceptional organization, rated “Platinum” by Guidestar.

Melwood offers their Operation Tohidu® to wounded warriors. This holistic retreat helps wounded warriors “overcome obstacles to their recovery and supporting their successful reintegration.”

Check out their latest video on this life-saving program!

News Headlines:

Therapy Horse of the Month
Meet Onyx, the Therapy Horse of the Month for March. In fact, he’s the very first horse selected for this honor. Onyx hangs his harness at the beautiful Maryland Therapeutic Riding facility in Crownsville.

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Onyx is a youthful 20-year-old Percheron/Quarter Horse cross, standing 15.3 hh, weighing around 1200 lbs. Since I serve on MTR’s board of directors, I have lots of chances to visit Onyx for long chats about life in general.

Equine therapy can definitely save veterans lives, helping them overcome their struggles with PTSD in a healthy environment. At this point, there is only limited federal funding to support these programs, and as yet no Maryland state funding. This legislative session and last year’s, I have been working with the General Assembly to open a channel of state funding to support Maryland-based equine therapy programs. More to follow on that.

Keep in Touch!
As I mentioned, tune into my Free State Veterans blog for updates on the Maryland General Assembly, veteran-owned breweries in Maryland, dogs, horses, baseball, etc.

Did you realize since 9/11/2001, during the months of March, twelve Marylanders have died while serving overseas in the global war on terrorism. On the anniversaries of their passing, they are mentioned on my Free State Veterans Facebook and Twitter sites. Follow along and help remember and honor our Maryland military heroes!

Stand by for a much more comprehensive legislative update next month, it’ll almost all be over…except for the wailing, crying, and gnashing of teeth!

For more veterans resources, visit AARP Maryland’s Veterans Resources page at aarp.org/mdveterans.

This story is provided by AARP Maryland. Visit the AARP Maryland page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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