84(R) - 2015
Relating to the verification of the veteran status of inmates and prisoners.
A fiscal note dated May 8, 2015 anticipates no significant fiscal implication to the State.
Regarding a potential local government impact, the fiscal note indicates that according to the Commission on Jail Standards, the cost is dependent upon each county's jail management system compatibility with the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Reentry Search Service (VRSS). While VRSS is free to use, there may be costs to upgrade software or convert data.
The cost to assist identified veterans in applying for federal benefits will vary by county, depending on personnel resources and size of veteran population for the county.
House Bill 875 would amend Chapter 501 of the Government Code relating to inmate welfare, and Chapter 511 of the Government Code relating to the commission on jail standards to modify the way the verification of an inmate veteran status is done.
Specifically, it would require that information relating to an inmate's military history be recorded during the diagnostic process on the inmate's admission sheet and intake screen form and that the veterans status be verified in coordination with the Texas Veterans Commission using the best available federal data available. The same data would have to be used to assist veterans inmates in applying for federal benefits.
The second chamber sponsor is Senator José Menéndez.
Vote Recommendation Notes
Under current law, the veteran status of an inmate must be verify by using the Public Assistance Reporting Information System operated by the Administration for Children and Families of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This system must also be used to help assist veterans in applying to federal benefits they may be eligible for.
According to the statement of intent for House Bill 875, the Health and Human Services Commission can only return results on a quarterly basis and often returns results that are not up to date.
House Bill 875 aims at using a system, the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Reentry Search Service (VRSS), that would give real time information and enable the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to better account for the number of incarcerated veterans and also to be better able to help them in applying to federal benefits they may qualify for. It could make government more efficient and transparent, and better help veterans obtain the federal benefits for which they are eligible. .
As a consequence, we support House Bill 875.