The Ottumwa Courier

AP Iowa

February 18, 2014

Iowa lawmakers OK bills that would help veterans

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa House panel approved legislation Monday that would help veterans transition into life after military service.

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously approved three bills that would help veterans more easily obtain occupational licenses or own a home. The legislation is part of Gov. Terry Branstad's plan to better support veterans already in Iowa and attract others to the state through various incentives.

"All these pieces are those necessary steps when you're making a major move like that from somewhere else," said Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, who chairs the committee. "You're coming to Iowa, to another part of your life, and finding the occupation that you want to do here."

The bills are now up for debate before the full House. The first would appropriate $1 million for research on how military skills apply to existing occupational license requirements. It would allot another $1 million for further marketing efforts to attract veterans to Iowa. These funds would be taken from the state's general fund.

The second measure would give credit to veterans for those skills when trying to obtain a license. If a person was an electrician in the armed forces, for example, he or she would receive an advantage in receiving the appropriate licensure once settled in Iowa, Alons said.

Currently, veterans are treated as any other citizen when obtaining occupational licenses, meaning they would have to start from square one despite prior experience in certain fields.

The third bill would increase the current appropriation for the Military Homeownership Assistance Program by $900,000. The program provides eligible service members and veterans with a $5,000 grant to be used toward down payments or closing costs on qualifying home purchases.

Alons said as more veterans enter the state with the proposed incentives, the program will need this additional funding in order to address a likely increase in applications.

He added that the unanimous support displayed is encouraging.

"It looks like it'll be pretty non-controversial moving forward," he said.

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