Returning Heroes Education Act Expanded; Missouri Leads the Nation and Opens its State Universities and Colleges for Combat Veterans From Across the United States
The University of Missouri System and the Missouri Legislature has heeded the advice of Missouri's most effective Veteran advocate's team and has opened the doors welcoming many of our country's eligible combat veterans into the empty seats of the University of Missouri System's classrooms. Erik has been steadfast in his advice to bring a truly global, diverse, and progressive experience into the state's publicly funded classrooms. His advice to legislators regarding declining enrollment remains: "Look to our nation's combat veterans."
Missouri has appropriately expanded the "Returning Heroes Education Act" (RHEA) to include all American combat veterans that relocate to our state, bringing their diverse, global experience
into our state colleges and universities. Any qualifying veteran that relocates into our great state has to simply register to vote or, more importantly, establish residency to receive this
incredible earned benefit. The legislation is remarkable, as it further expands RHEA to incorporate any combat veterans' last discharge, extending their eligibility should they have joined
their respective branch's Reserves or National Guard after departing Active Duty.
Erik's Bill has also increased eligibility from ten years to 20 years from the combat veteran's last discharge.
Eligible veterans will see a 70% decrease in their tuition for Master's Degree and Doctoral Programs (minus medical & veterinary professional programs), and a $50 per credit hour on every undergraduate degree program's tuition.
Returning Heroes Education Act Expansion filed in the Missouri House
Missouri's House Bill 400, pre-filed by House Veterans Chairman Rep. Chuck Basye, will expand the already successful Returning Heroes Education Act to include Masters and Doctoral degree programs. HB 400 reduces tuition of any veteran that is a Missouri resident or enters service in Missouri. These voices should be included, and their experience recognized and distinguished as diverse voices in Missouri's collegiate classrooms.
"Combat veterans bring an incredible amount of intellectual diversity into classrooms where theory and reality truly do meet" said Erik.
Erik Leads Missouri to Improved Quality of Life for Veterans
Missouri House Bill 573, the expansive Veterans Quality of Life Bill for 2018, took effect on August 28, 2018.
This law establishes the Missouri Veteran Bill of Rights; allows private businesses to give hiring preference to Veterans and spouses of deceased veterans; allows Veterans access to small business
loans with mentorship; puts Veterans at the from of the line for Missouri's Linked Deposit Program; extends eligibility to the Show-Me Heroes program for five years; and creates equity in our tax
code among our service members on Active Duty & Reserve, and National Guard status by phasing an elimination of military earned income tax for normal Drill and Annual Training.
"Missourians love our Veterans, and through reforms like this, we have the chance to make our state into a place these American heroes will 'come home to,' bringing their global experience to the benefit our communities," said Erik.
Returning Heroes Education Act Expansion moves forward, ready for vote by the Missouri House
The Bill expanding the educational opportunities for Missouri's combat veterans is ready for a vote by the members of the Missouri House of Representatives. HB 1368, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye (R-47), will expand the Returning Heroes Education Act to include Masters and Doctoral degree programs.
"The spirit of the Returning Heroes Education act is to bring the knowledge and experience of the men and women Missouri has sent to fight back into our state university and college classrooms. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to understanding the complexities of our world," Erik said.
The Bill has passed the House Veterans Committee unanimously and the House Rules - Legislative Oversight Committee with a 7-2 vote.
When testifying in favor of the Bill, veterans advocate and Iraq War veteran Phillip Bacon highlighted his use of the Returning Heroes Education Act to obtain his bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri. He shared that this bill would enable him to continue his education and continue his successful financial planning career.
A vote on the Bill is expected after the 2018 Legislative Spring Break.
Erik Joins Rep. Toalson Reisch to File "Game Changing" Bill for Missouri's National Guard & Reserve Military Police
After years in development, including a US Army & Missouri Department of Public Service joint pilot program, the Missouri Legislature is now poised to act on a proposed effort that has been recognized as a "Game Changer" in how Army National Guard and Reserve Military Police traning is received for civilian law enforcement certification. House Bill 1638 will establish a rigorous training program for qualified Missouri National Guard & Reserve MPs that will enable them to meet the requirements to take the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) test.
Introduced by Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-44), HB 1638 enables the establishment of a flexible program that, after the first year, can be tailored to throughput Military Police school graduates
based on the demand by law enforcement and within budget and revenue restrictions.
This program will honor the training provided by the US Army Military Police School that is congruent with the standards set by the Missouri Department of Public Safety. The areas where the Military Police School falls short, approximately 80 hours worth of comprehensive training specific to state statutes and code, will be funded by the state. With thousands of law enforcement positions open across Missouri, utilizing these capable candidates makes sense.
Erik was presented with the idea in 2015 after learning of the pilot program. Impressed with it's 90% success rate, Erik began working with legislators to bring this into reality. After listening to Gov. Eric Greitens' State of the State address in early 2017 where he outlined maximizing the use of Federal military facilities to benefit both our military members and everyday Missourians, Erik was emboldended even further. He led a team of veterans and civil servants to assess the cost in manpower and both durable & expendable equipment that would be needed for candidates to meet the POST requirements to take the certification test. The numbers showed that the program was feasible.
"I am eager to see Missouri invest in these qualified individuals. They are already proven to be physically and mentally capable of serving our nation and state," said Erik. "I am confident that Missouri's investment in them will not go to waste."
Erik Reacts to SB 225 Taking Effect
"I am very proud to see this bill become law," Erik said of Senate Bill 225.
The law recognizes certain valor medals other statutes did not codify in legislation, including each service's Valor Cross; second only to the Medal of Honor in our military's award hierarchy. SB 225 ensures that recipients of these medals, previously neglected in law, now have the same privileges as recipients of other combat medals that have already been recognized.
Erik led the effort after meeting Army CW2 Roger Caffery in a local grocery store parking lot. Caffery is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam. The two struck up a conversation about the lack of equity in current Missouri statutes recognizing recipients of these combat medals. Erik approached Rep. Chuck Basye, R-47, who is also a veteran, and shared the story of the chance encounter. Rep. Basye and his staff eagerly helped Erik draft the bill language that was ultimately included into SB 225, which takes effect today (August 28).
"My goal is to encourage our nation's veterans to "Come Home to Missouri." This law helps not only do that, but bring those who are the most decorated for their service in combat within our
ranks," said Erik.
The law also permits recipients of certain combat medals to park their vehicle without charge at Missouri state colleges and universities. Previous versions of these laws excluded campuses, requiring student veterans who have distinguished themselves in combat operations to purchase a parking permit.
Missouri Heroes Win, Despite Dysfunction in Senate.
A zero-cost Bill that Erik proposed was included in SB 225 (2017) and passed by the Missouri House 129-10. When signed by the Governor, this bill extends eligibility of existing statutes
relating to combat & valor medals that were previously not recognized by law due to bureaucratic oversight. The unrecognized medals within the bill earned by Missourians are second only to the
Medal of Honor and are worthy of distinction.
SB 225 gives recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), Navy Cross, Coast Guard Cross, Air Force Cross, and the Dystinguished Flying Cross equity in their eligibility for the same
privileges as those of the Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, & POW Medal.
The Bill was signed by Governor Eric Greitens and takes effect on August 28, 2017.
Erik Briefs Gubernatorial Staff on Veteran Legislation
During Missouri's observance of Vietnam Veterans Day at the Capitol, Erik briefed staff and advisors of Gov. Eric Greitens' administration on (2017) House Bills 794 and 805. HB 794 creates a
Student Veteran Commissioner position on the Missouri Veterans Commission appointed by the Governor. This position is critical, as more veterans return home from the service and enter the
classrooms of our colleges and universities, bringing their world view, experience, and earned GI Bill benefits home to Missouri. HB 805 rewrites certain existing statutes relating to combat
valor medals that are currently not recognized by law for certain privileges.
Erik's continues to actively seek, and finds ways to improve the lives of Missouri's veterans while simultaneously working with lawmakers and policy analysts throughout the state goverment. He is committed to building mutual understanding and build consensus between the Legislative and Executive branches of our state goverment for the benefit of Missouri's veterans.
Missouri Student Veterans Backed Bill Passes House
The Missouri Student Veterans Association has had its first legislative victory in 2017 after Erik helped draft and promote House Bill 805. This bill rewrites certain existing statutes
relating to combat valor medals that are currently not recognized by law for certain privileges. The bill will recognize recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force
Cross, and Coast Guard Cross by issuing them a placard for their automobile. This is a step in the right direction for creation of a license plate for these valor decorations.
Erik's genesis for this bill came after reading the statutes and seeing the medals excluded. After a chance encounter with a Columbia recipient of a combat medal not recognized withinin the statutes, Erik contacted fellow veteran Rep. Chuck Basye (R-47), who helped draft and sponsor the bill. Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-44) and Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-22) co-sponsored the bill, as well. After two committee hearings, the bill was perfected and passed in the House by a vote of 144-1-1. The bill is now in the Senate awaiting committee hearings and passage.
Missouri Student Veterans Propose Legislation
The Missouri Student Veterans Association has secured sponsors for their 2017 legislative agenda. Their proposals include graduate level tuition reduction that will see an increase in revenue for
the University of Missouri System. Since the Missouri Returning Heroes act limited undergraduate tuition for qualified veterans to $50 per credit hour, this legislation would allow veterans to
use their GI Bill benefits for graduate school and allow other students to compete for tuition waivers. The GI Bill cannot be used for education beyond a masters degree.
The organization is also seeking to create a Student Veteran Commissioner on the state's Veteran Commission & recognize valor medals from each service that are not recognized in current statutes.
Missouri Veteran Bills Become Law
Legislation that reduces the financial burden of student veterans, active, reserve, and National Guard military families in Missouri took effect Sunday (August 28, 2016). Missouri Senate Bill 968 amended education statutes to provide incentive to Missouri's returning combat veterans, while fully funding the tuition for 25 immediate family members of wounded and fallen Missouri troops. Missouri Senate Bill 814, another bill Erik testified in support of, eliminates state income tax for Missouri residents assigned within the state on active duty status.
Erik led members of the Missouri Student Veterans Association in an aggressive campaign advocating strongly for these overdue measures throughout the 2016 legislative session.
On June 13, 2016 Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 968, sweeping education reform for combat veterans, reserve and National Guard members serving in Missouri, combat wounded veterans and the
families of fallen heroes. The Missouri Student Veterans Association spent hundreds of hours advocating for this legislation and is proud it is now law.
Read the law here...
Senate Bill 968 Passes House Unanimously
The Missouri House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 968 (2016) with a vote of 156 - 0. This sweeping veterans bill makes higher education more accessible to combat veterans, reserve & National Guard members serving the state, wounded warriors, and the families of fallen heroes.
Erik was recognized by Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson for bringing unparelled monentum to solutions for Missouri's 480,000 strong veteran community. Erik received a standing ovation from members of the House and observers in the gallery.
The Bill will now head to Gov. Nixon's desk for his signature.
Missouri Student Veterans Assoc. Legislative Day
Members and supporters of the Missouri Student Veterans Association spent April 12 meeting with a legislators from all parties in the Missouri Capitol during their annual Legislative Day. The MSVA members' efforts were supported by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) throughout the state. Those who were unable to attend in person made telephone calls to key legislators in support of the legislation Erik spearheaded in the Capitol.
The delegation also took a guided tour of the Missouri Governor's Mansion, where they posed for a group picture before returning to the Capitol.
The finale for the event saw members of the MSVA delegation recognized on the floor of the Missouri House by Rep. Charlie Davis (R-Joplin), the Chairman of the House Veterans Committee.
Missouri Student Veterans Testify in House & Senate Committees
Throughout February and March, members of the Missouri Student Veterans Association testified in front of House and Senate committees to help advance legislation aimed at making access to education more accessible to combat veterans, wounded servicemembers, and survivors of the fallen.
The testimony allowed members of the MSVA to share their difficulties utilizing their earned education benefits from their service within the state's public universities and junior colleges. The proposed legislation was drafted after MSVA leadership had learned of systemic issues with current processes of handling veterans' earned benefits.
The testimony of the student veterans was strongly supported by representatives from the Missouri National Guard Association, the American Legion, and representatives from groups affiliated with the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations (MAVO).