NJ considers bills to help veterans

January 25, 2009 2:58:12 PM PST
The New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to consider two bills Monday that would boost benefits to veterans and their families. The Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee will consider a measure that will create a "Troops to College" program within the Commission on Higher Education. The goal is to help veterans make the transition from the military to the college classroom.

"Our veterans deserve the best, and that includes access to higher education," said bill co-sponsor Patrick Diegnan Jr., D-South Plainfield. "This plan would make that transition easier and is the right thing to do for those who have sacrificed their time and energy to defend our nation."

Under the bill, veterans would be ensured of help in applying for scholarships and federal and state financial aid. They'd get academic counseling and would be paired with a veterans' assistance officer who would provide a single point of contact for information.

The bill also calls for relevant information to be posted online on public college's Web sites, including the contact information for the school's veterans' liaison.

Monday will mark the bill's first hearing in the Assembly. A Senate version has been approved by the Education Committee.

Also being considered Monday is legislation that would create a special license plate for parents of troops killed while serving the country.

The bill authorizes a Gold Star Parent license plate for the parents of service personnel killed while on active duty.

The design includes a gold star and the words "Gold Star Parent."

The special plate would cost $25 plus regular registration fees.

"Nothing we can do can help parents overcome the loss of a child," said bill co-sponsor Jack Conners, who chairs the committee. "But at the very least, we can do this to honor those who lost a child on active duty."

"This is a simple way to offer our condolences and gratitude to families who have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Conners, D-Delran.

"Gold Star parents are the parents of heroes," added co-sponsor Matthew Milam, D-Cape May Court House.

Monday will be the bill's first hearing. There is no companion measure in the Senate.


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