HARRISBURG - Several new laws have been enacted in the past few weeks to help our state's veterans and current military personnel, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) announced.

"Our Commonwealth boasts a high percentage of men and women who have served in our Armed Forces or with our state's National Guard, and it's imperative that our laws reflect the changing needs of our military personnel and benefits," Pickett said. "With Veterans Day on Sunday, I think it is very fitting that some of our newest laws address the issues that our veterans face."

Among the new laws is a measure that offers a special designation on Pennsylvania driver's licenses for veterans so that veterans can more easily access benefits which they have earned.

Under the new law, the state Department of Transportation is to make available to persons producing valid honorable military discharge papers a special designation on their actual driver's license or PennDOT identification card. The implementation can begin in 12 to 18 months, with the intent that most veterans will ask for the designation at the time of their normal driver's license renewals. The cost of the regular license renewal will remain the same but there is no additional cost to the veteran for the special designation mark. All the honored veteran must do is show their DD-214 or NGB-22 discharge papers.

"Sometimes, it is difficult for veterans to prove their military service unless they carry their discharge papers with them all the time," Pickett said. "By adding this designation to their driver's license, veterans will be able to more easily access the benefits they've earned or receive non-government benefits such as retail discounts."

Another of the signed new laws brings the State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) into compliance with the Federal Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Act of 2008 (HEART) and will conform Pennsylvania law regarding pension credit for military leave for state employees and SERS members with federal law.

A third new law encourages state agencies to contract with veteran-owned small businesses by establishing an annual statewide goal of not less than 3 percent participation in statewide contracts entered into by the Department of General Services. The law also requires training to help veteran-owned businesses learn how to apply for state contracts.

Other new laws in the package establish guidelines and funding for the Pennsylvania Veterans' Trust Fund; simplify the process of absentee voting for United States military and overseas civilians in state elections conducted in Pennsylvania; and enforce order and discipline upon the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who are not in active federal service.

"Our veterans have done so much to protect democracy and ensure not only our freedoms but those around the globe," Pickett said. "These new laws are just one small way that we can show our gratitude to them and make their return to civilian life a little easier."

More information about veterans' benefits is available online at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs' website at www.dmva.state.pa.us.

Submitted by Rep. Tina Pickett