PA 08-87—sSB 307

Select Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING RECOGNITION OF VETERANS

SUMMARY: This act modifies the eligibility criteria for admission to the Veterans' Home in two ways. It adds certain federal criteria to the standards veterans must meet to be eligible for admission. And it extends eligibility for admission to certain current and former service members based on their entitlement to federal military retirement pay. It also extends eligibility for burial in the state veterans' cemeteries to these service members.

The act expands the program that requires the Connecticut National Guard's adjutant general and veterans' affairs commissioner to award service medals and ribbons to qualified wartime veterans by allowing the officials to make the awards posthumously.

It requires the adjutant general to issue an achievement ribbon to the National Guard soldier, airman, and noncommissioned officer of the year.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the posthumous awards; July 1, 2008 for the other provisions.

ADMISSION TO VETERANS' HOME

Veterans

Existing law defines a veteran as anyone honorably discharged or released from active service in the U. S. Armed Forces. Under prior law, any such veteran was eligible for admission to the Veterans' Home. The act requires that veterans also meet federal “active military, naval or air service requirements.

Under federal law, “active military, naval or air service” includes any period of:

1. active duty;

2. active duty for training purposes during which an individual was disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; and

3. inactive duty training during which an individual was disabled or died (a) from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty or (b) from a heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke occurring during such training.

Other Service Members

The act extends eligibility for admission to the Veterans' Home to certain guard members and reservists who do not fall within state law's definition of veterans for admission purposes. Specifically, it extends eligibility to current and former armed forces members living in Connecticut who are entitled to military retirement pay under federal law (10 USC Ch. 1223). Under this federal law, certain National Guard members and reservists are entitled to retirement pay if:

1. they are at least age 60;

2. they performed at least 20 years of qualifying uniformed service (creditable retirement service);

3. in the case of people who completed such service before April 25, 2005, they performed the last six years of such service (eight for people who completed their service before October 5, 1994) as members of any category other than a regular component, the Fleet Reserve, or the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve; and

4. they are not entitled to military retirement pay under any other federal law.

Although the act extends eligibility for admission to the Veterans' Home to the above service members, it does not amend related statutes that address (1) application procedures, (2) payment for services, and (3) actions the commissioner must take when a person living in the Home cannot pay or dies owing money.

BURIAL IN A VETERANS' CEMETERY

By law, a person is eligible for burial in a state veterans' cemetery if he or she (1) was honorably discharged from or released under honorable conditions from active service in the U. S. Armed Forces, or any auxiliary branch of the armed forces; (2) completed at least 20 years of Connecticut National Guard service; or (3) was killed in action, or died as a result of an accident or illness sustained while performing active service in any capacity above. The act extends eligibility for burial to current and former service members entitled to military retirement pay under federal law (10 USC Ch. 1223).

As is currently the case for eligible persons, the act allows these service members to make burial requests to the commissioner by will or other communication. Alternatively, a spouse or next of kin may make the request on behalf of the deceased. The commissioner must grant the request.

Under existing law, one spouse of a deceased veteran is eligible for burial in a state veterans' cemetery. It appears that, under the act, spouses of service members who qualify for burial in a veterans' cemetery based on entitlement to military retirement pay are not eligible for burial in such cemeteries.

POSTHUMOUS AWARDS

The law requires the adjutant general and veterans' affairs commissioner to award a ribbon and medal to each wartime veteran who (1) lived in Connecticut when he or she was called to active duty or (2) is living in Connecticut when getting the award. Prior law prohibited posthumous awards. The act allows posthumous awards on or after July 1, 2005. (The intent of this provision may be to allow awards for people who die on or after July 1, 2005, but the act is not explicit. )

BACKGROUND

Active Service

State law does not define active service. For purposes of the laws governing the National Guard, federal law defines “active service” as service on active duty or full-time National Guard duty (10 USC 101 (d)(3)).

Active Duty

State law does not define active duty. For purposes of the laws governing the armed forces, federal law defines “active duty” as:

1. full-time duty in the armed forces (other than for active-duty training);

2. full-time duty (other than for training) as a commissioned officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service under specified circumstances;

3. full-time duty as a commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or its predecessor organization under specified circumstances;

4. service as a cadet at the U. S. Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy or as a midshipman at the U. S. Naval Academy; and

5. authorized travel to or from such service (38 USC 101(21)).

OLR Tracking: VR: JF: PF: ts