Senator Fontana presents Mr. Frank Caparelli, a World War II veteran, with a Senate citation on October 25th that paid tribute to Mr. Caparelli’s sacrifices and his commitment to our nation through his record of service. Mr. Caparelli and 11 of his longtime friends were treated to lunch at Calabria’s Restaurant in Castle Shannon after touring the Mt. Washington neighborhood he formerly resided in thanks to Unity, A Journey of Hope, a non-profit that grants wishes to adults with life-limiting illnesses.
Legislation Supporting Veterans
The term “veteran” is derived from the Latin and often meant a person of long experience or skill. After the American Revolution, the word came to be associated specifically with former soldiers of old age who had fought for independence. As time has gone on, “veteran” has been used to describe any former member of the armed forces or a person who has served in the military.
With the United States’ history of war, Congress originally passed a law in 1968 that Veterans Day would be nationally commemorated on the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent that November 11th was a date of historical significance for many Americans due to the ending of World War I on this date, and Congress officially changed this national holiday back to November 11th in 1978. Today, Veterans Day is still observed on November 11th as a national holiday to honor all veterans of the United States Armed Forces through participation in parades, ceremonies, and events that pay respect and honor our current and former servicemen and women.
The Pennsylvania Legislature continues to look for ways to recognize our servicemen and servicewomen by passing legislation to help assist and distinguish the sacrifices so many individuals make on a daily basis. I have highlighted some of the bills that may benefit many of the veterans in the Commonwealth:
- House Bill 88 (HB 88) - This bill attempts to fix the loophole that certain entities have used to charge members of the Pennsylvania National Guard with multiple leave days for a single 24-hour period by requiring that the 15-day leave of absence for active duty military personnel working in civilian jobs to be applied to 15 individual 24-hour days. The legislation passed the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously.
- House Bill 107 (HB 107) – This legislation would require that a veteran's military education, training and service experience be taken into consideration by certain Commonwealth agencies to determine whether a licensing or certification requirement has been met or can be waived due to the veteran's military education, training and service experience. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
- House Bill 972 (HB 972) – The bill provides that a veteran may obtain a fee waiver certificate for a peddler's license if they provide required documentation to their County Director of Veterans' Affairs. The bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously and now awaiting consideration by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
- Senate Bill 302 (SB 302) - The legislation attempts to professionalize, standardize, and expand the current tasks and duties of a county director of veterans’ affairs. It would bring uniformity and expectations to a position that has only a broad overview as it is currently in law. Directors will be required to maintain U.S. VA accreditation with either the DMVA or one of the veterans’ organizations. This bill will also address training and certification requirements for the position. SB 302 became law as Act 5 of 2013.
- Senate Bill 373 (SB 373) and Senate Bill 374 (SB 374) – These bills would allow the children and spouse of a Pennsylvania National Guard member killed in action to qualify for the state’s tuition waiver, even if the fallen soldier was not a Pennsylvania resident at the time of his or her death as long as the fallen soldier was a Commonwealth resident at any time during their service in the Guard. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously passed these bills.
- Senate Bill 403 (SB 403) – The legislation would assist the Pennsylvania National Guard (PNG) in their efforts to recruit and retain military resident physicians by establishing the Military Physician Incentive Program. This program would leverage current and anticipated Educational Assistance Program (EAP) funding to support this plan while maintaining full participation in EAP. The bill passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously.
- Senate Bill 586 (SB 586) – This bill requires the Commonwealth to recognize the wishes of a service member by making the DD Form 93 as the formal determination of who has the right to make the decision regarding the disposal of the service member’s remains if that person dies during service. This legislation became law under Act 45 of 2013.
- Senate Bill 886 (SB 886) – This legislation would protect the Medal of Honor against its diminution by those who falsely claim to be recipients of our nation’s highest military honor by having the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs create a database of Medal of Honor recipients. This bill passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously.
- Senate Bill 923 (SB 923) – This bill would preserve and expand the Military Family Relief Assistance Program (MFRAP), which will lose its primary source of funding at the end of 2013. The MFRAP program, created in 2005, gives grants of up to $3,500 to Pennsylvania service members in need and their families and would be extended until June 30, 2020. In addition, the program’s eligibility criteria would be expanded because the current guidelines are so narrowly drawn that participation is limited. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bill.
- Senate Bill 1115 (SB 1115) – The legislation clarifies that grants under the Pennsylvania National Guard Educational Assistance Program (EAP) will be applied after the utilization of federal assistance programs such as the GI Bill and Federal Tuition Assistance. After federal programs have been applied, EAP grants will be awarded to eligible members for the remaining approved documented expenses up to the maximum amount provided by law. In addition, the bill will provide that EAP funds are to be used only for tuition/fees, room/board and books as long as such costs are documented by the educational institution. The legislation unanimously passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, November 11th in observance of Veterans Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, November 12th as scheduled. Please join me on Veterans Day by thanking veterans everywhere who have sacrificed so much in order for our country to enjoy the freedom we do today.
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA) provides a variety of resources and assistance to the Commonwealth’s veterans and their families. Some of the programs DMVA administers include the following:
Educational Gratuity Program – This program provides financial assistance to children between the age of 16 and 23 of honorably discharged veterans who have service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict, or children of veterans who die or died in service during a period of war or armed conflict.
Blind Veterans Pension – This program provides blind veterans with a monthly pension if the Pennsylvania veteran served in the military honorably and suffered a service-connected injury or incurred a disease which resulted in the loss of vision.
Paralyzed Veterans Pension – This program provides paralyzed veterans with a monthly pension if the Pennsylvania veteran served in the military honorably and suffered a service-connected injury or disease resulting in the loss or loss of use of two or more extremities.
Veterans Emergency Assistance – This program provides temporary financial aid in an emergency to veterans and their beneficiaries who reside in Pennsylvania for the necessities of life (food, dairy, shelter, fuel, medical care and clothing).
Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption – This program provides a real estate tax exemption for any honorably discharged veteran who is 100% disabled, a resident of the Commonwealth and has a financial need.
For more information on these programs or any programs available to veterans, please visit www.dmva.state.pa.us or call 1-800-547-2838.
Businesses Supporting Veterans
There are a large number of vendors and businesses, locally and across the country that offer a “thank you” to those who have served. Please visit Allegheny County's website for a listing of businesses offering free and discounted items for veterans on Veterans Day.
A Beginning November 4th, the PA Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will be accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website. You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from DPW’s LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits this season are as follows:
After your application is reviewed, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and are credited to your account. For more information, or if you have questions about the program, please call the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
Teen Driver License Plates
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently announced a new license plate that parents have the option of utilizing for their teen drivers. The new plate depicts the message, “Teen Driver, Please Be Courteous.” Any parent interested in applying for the plate can download and submit an MV-915 form by visiting www.dmv.state.pa.us. Forms can also be obtained from any of my district offices. There is a $20 charge for the specialized plate.
|Senator Fontana visited with residents at the South Hills Retirement Residence on Mt. Washington on November 1st. There was even a little time for a few games of ping pong with some of the residents!
Older Adults Needed as Tutors
OASIS Pittsburgh will be hosting free training sessions for adults aged 50 and over who are interested in serving as tutors for students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools. These upcoming training sessions will be held on November 13th and November 20th from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Macy’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh. All materials, books, and supplies will be provided by OASIS.
OASIS is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 that is active in 40 cities across the country in promoting successful aging by providing opportunities for adults aged 50 and over to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives. Their Intergenerational Tutoring Program trains older adults on tutoring children and provides older adults the chance to help students learn. The program is operated in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please call John D. Spehar, OASIS Pittsburgh Tutoring Coordinator at 412-232-2021 or email him at email@example.com.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh (BBBS) was established in 1965 and has earned national recognition for program quality and organizational excellence. BBBS provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, through two program options.
The community-based program is where a child and a professionally screened and trained volunteer share consistent time together participating in a variety of activities in the community. The site-based program occurs during the school year where a student and a professionally screened and trained volunteer spend time together at a school, community center or volunteer’s workplace. Program time is supervised by a BBBS staff member.
Anyone interested in volunteering with BBBS must complete an extensive screening process that includes the completion of a formal written application, background and reference checks, an in-person interview, and an orientation and training process that outlines the individualized needs of the child and provides information and resources on how to encourage a child’s development.
If you are interested in enrolling a child in one of the BBBS programs or are interested in becoming a volunteer and beginning the screening process, please call 412-363-6100, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.bbbspgh.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that among children surveyed who participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters,
83 percent agree that their Big Brother or Big Sister instilled values and principles that have
guided them through life and that 85 percent agreed that their experience influenced
them in overcoming adversity or problems with courage?
Brookline Business Feature
This week’s featured Brookline business is Salon Canova, located at 515 Brookline Boulevard. Salon Canova, owned by Janet Canova, is a specialty salon that has been open along the Boulevard for nearly 14 years. They offer manicures and pedicures, facials, waxing and lash and brow tinting and much more. Salon Canova accepts day and evening appointments Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and day appointments on Saturdays. For more information on their services, to schedule an appointment, or to sign up to receive their quarterly newsletter, please call Salon Canova at 412-344-0779. Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:
Brookline is open for business!
There are currently over 980,000 veterans living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which is the fourth highest populated state in the country. Only California (over 1.8 million), Texas (over 1.6 million) and Florida (over 1.5 million) have a higher population of veterans than Pennsylvania.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216