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Bill reauthorizing veterans reintegration task force passes House committee

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 3:55 p.m. MST

Sfc. Natalie Peterson, Staff Sgt. Wade Welcker and Chuck Rackham chat at the Employment Fair sponsored by the Utah Veterans and Military Employment Coalition at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 30, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill reauthorizing a task force to create a statewide action plan for assisting veterans with reintegration into communities passed the House Political Subdivisions Committee on Monday.

"Many veterans don't even know that they have benefits available to them for their service," said Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, sponsor of SB38 and co-chairman of the 21-member Veterans Reintegration Task Force during the past year.

"That's frightening in many ways," Knudson said, "because many veterans are in need of services, but they are very proud group of people who do not ask for much."

One of the big problems, he said, is the lack of coordination and cooperation between various entities charged with the responsibility of giving veterans access to the benefits to which they're entitled.

"I can find no fault with anyone individually, but collectively, the communication has been horrible," Knudson said. "We believe that this task force has done a great job, but our work is not yet finished."

In each of these various entities, a person would be trained to help veterans find employment, pursue education and locate further services available.  

"Our service members don't ask those questions when they're called to serve," said Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray. "You say jump, and they're already there, they're already ready, they're already prepared."

Coming back into the civilian sector presents challenges and frustrations, Cosgrove said.

"The downturn in the economy doesn't help," he said. "Employment is a big issue, PTSD is a big issue, continuing marriages are a big issue, suicides are a big issue, and we've got to do a better job of communicating and coordinating those efforts together."

Joe Call, a father of three sons who have served in Iraq, voiced his support for the bill.

"I really like the concept," Call said. "It's not just people with PTSD that are having a hard time reintegrating. They come home, they've spent 12 or 15 months in the Army. They come home from an atmosphere where their adrenaline is at its highest peak the entire time they are over there, and they are doing things that are just, as we know with war, terrible, terrible things. And to come back here in a society where they grew up, with the laws they grew up with, I've seen them really struggle."

The bill passed unanimously and will now go before the full House for consideration.

E-mail: rlowry@desnews.com

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