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Lawmakers seek funding for veterans services database

WJHG 7-Panama City, Fla.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- One out of three veterans in Florida don’t use all the benefits they’re entitled to, leaving tens of millions of dollars in veterans benefits unclaimed, but some lawmakers are seeking funding for a new website that would make it easier for service members past and present to find out what they qualify for.

The bill seeks a $130,000 appropriation to expand Florida’s Network of Care Database to offer information about veterans services and benefits.

“And that's veterans specific. So it has very particular information from DOD, Reserve Affairs, the VA,” said Bruce Bronzan, President of Trilogy Integrated Resources, the company that would be contracted to host the database. "It makes it much easier for veterans to readjust to coming home and to be able to find a way to move forward in their lives.”

The Florida Network of Care already offers a website for mental health services, broken down by region.

If the new legislation passes, a similar site will launch that will tell veterans what benefits, jobs and services are offered in their part of the state.

“From anywhere you're at you can, you know I need emergency financial assistance, I'm at risk, they're turning my power off and I'm getting kicked out of my house. They hit a button. It takes them directly to Project Vet Relief. And they go there to Project Vet Relief, they get money to stay in their home, they don't become homeless,” said Retired Navy Commander and Veterans Advocate Dennis Baker. "So there's a lot of prevention here, but mostly it's just a one stop shop.”

And supporters say when veterans use their benefits, everyone is better off.

“It's going to bring Federal VA dollars into the area. It's going to free up Medicaid, state Medicaid money for others people, that can use that money for a better use. To help them recover from the hurricane, that's just an example,” said Baker.

If the funding is approved by the legislature it will take roughly four months for the site to be completed, putting the launch data somewhere around the end of this year.

So far the bill hasn’t been scheduled for any committee hearing in the House.

The Senate companion has not been filed yet, but that is expected to change.