Newhouse bill to aid state veterans

A bill aimed at reducing the number of individuals fraudulently claiming to be disabled veteran has cleared the full Senate.

Sen. Joe Newhouse. R-Tulsa, is principal author of Senate Bill 456, which directs the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to create and administer a registry of 100 percent service-disabled veterans. The agency would also be charged with verifying all information provided through the registry.

“Our state has approved legislation through the years meant to assist Oklahoma veterans who suffered 100 percent disability as a result of their service to our country,” said Newhouse.  “It’s shameful that people who never made such sacrifices will falsely represent themselves as a veteran to get benefits they are not entitled to.  We believe this registry can help stop that kind of fraud.”

Among the benefits offered to veterans in Oklahoma is a sales tax exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans and their spouses and widows.  Newhouse said the number of individuals taking advantage of the program is far greater than the actual number of 100 percent disabled veterans in the state.

“Unfortunately the numbers we’ve seen show there’s been rampant abuse of this program.  There are only about 13,500 100 percent disabled veterans in Oklahoma, but 31,000 certificates for tax exemption have been issued,” Newhouse said.  “Not only are these individuals who commit fraud dishonoring our true heroes, but they’re also depriving the state of lawfully owed sales taxes—funds that could have been used to help pay for core services like education and public safety.”

Senate Bill 456 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.