INDIANAPOLIS -- Legislation authored by Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) extending the eligibility window for deployed soldiers to receive grants from the Military Family Relief Fund was signed into law on Thursday.
The law, House Enrolled Act 1059, previously passed the House and the Senate unanimously and was signed into law by the governor.
"We are trying to do everything we can to support our active troops and their families," Baird said. "I want these funds to be accessible to those who are truly in need of it, and this law provides an opportunity for us to help returning military members. This is one more way to give our troops the support they deserve."
The Military Family Relief Fund legislation extends the application deadline for grants from the Military Family Relief Fund from one year to three years. The grant is available for a service member or a service member's dependent and is funded through sales of 'Hoosier Veteran' license plates, 'POW-MIA' license plates and 'Support Our Troops' license plates.
"If you have been in combat, it takes a while to adjust back to civilian life," said Baird, a veteran himself. "When active military return to their families, it may take longer than a year to adjust to life at home. This legislation allows that cushion of adjustment time."
The director of Veterans Affairs will be required to provide an annual report to the State Budget Committee concerning the grant program's funding.
The grant is worth up to $5,000 per year through the fund. Because the end date for receiving benefits is extended from one year to three years under the new law, the grants will still be up to $5,000 per year, but military members and their families could receive up to $15,000 if they receive the grant for three years.
"This relief fund is available now to active military but through this law, we now open up the eligibility window so military members and their families can receive funding if they need it two or three years after returning," Baird said. "I want to encourage all our active military to talk to their local veteran's services coordinator to get more information about how to apply for the aid that is available to them."
Those interested in applying for the Military Family Relief Fund grant can contact their local county veterans' service officers, call toll free 1-800-400-4520 to have an application mailed or download the application at www.in.gov/dva/2329.htm.
Though funded through the sale of military license plates, direct donations are accepted and can be made to the Military Family Relief Fund without purchasing a license plate by making checks out to the Military Family Relief Fund and mailed to Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs at 302 W. Washington St., Rm. E120, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
"I am grateful the General Assembly worked hard this year to make the eligibility window extension a reality through this new law," said Baird. "I encourage our military to seek out this grant, especially those military who are in the two year or three year eligibility window."
Rep. Baird represents District 44, which includes all of Putnam County and parts of Clay, Parke and Vigo counties. Rep. Baird is a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.