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State lawmaker files bill to improve handling of funds for veterans after Call 6 Investigation

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jan 14, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — A state lawmaker has filed legislation following a Call 6 Investigation that found employees within the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs received benefits from the Military Family Relief Fund, above the fund’s $2,500 limit.

Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, filed House Bill 1257 which would block an IDVA employee from receiving assistance from the Military Family Relief Fund, money generated from specialty license plate revenue and distributed to struggling veterans.

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Frye’s bill would cap the amount any qualified service member can receive at $2,500.

“I didn’t think it was right that someone at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be able to themselves receive money,” said Frye. “I felt like the amount should be the same for everybody, whether they work at the agency or not.”

A recent audit criticized the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs because it did not have sufficient internal controls over the Military Family Relief Fund, including no procedures to approve awards over the $2,500 lifetime maximum.

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The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs administers the fund, and it says on their website that veterans and their families can get up to $2,500.

“Grants up to $2,500 may be awarded,” read the website. “The qualified individual or family member can receive up to $2,500 one time from the Family Relief Fund.”

Frye’s bill would go a step further and put the $2,500 cap into state law.

It would require the state to approve or deny applications for the Military Family Relief Fund within 60 days.

“One of the issues that we heard was that someone would file and it might take 90 days or longer to find out,” said Frye. “What we want to do is solve what we believe is a problem. We want to continue to work on that until we get it done.”
Veterans have expressed frustration recently about how the state has failed veterans in need.

Some veterans say the legislation doesn’t go far enough to fix the system in place.

“I appreciate the intent by Rep. Frye and think there are many improvements needed to make this bill into what is needed at IDVA,” Brig. Gen. James Bauerle said.

At least one veteran expressed concerned it would punish eligible veterans who work at IDVA.

“I think if they’re eligible and they haven’t received the maximum amount, they should be entitled to that as well just like every other veteran,” Will Henry, a veteran who raised concerns about the Military Family Relief Fund in Nov. 2018, said.

READ | Veterans, advocates allege state is misusing relief money generated from veteran license plates

Frye’s bill has been assigned to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, a committee which he chairs.

Rep. Frye said he expects the bill to get a hearing sometime in mid-February.

“I don’t feel at this point this bill is ready for prime time,” said Frye. “I’m talking to leadership. I’m talking to other members in the house and senate to try to get a better bill.”

Frye also said he plans to work with veterans and advocates to improve the bill.

If approved by the legislature it would take effect July 1.

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