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Veterans Services subject of high-profile committee hearing

State Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, chair of the Minnesota Senate's State Departments and Veterans Finance Division, recently led a hearing focused on improving veterans services in the state.

Senators heard bills focused on veterans homes, interim housing for Minnesota veterans and a piece of legislation on needed mental health services for veterans, which Saxhaug authored. The division also heard an informational presentation from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) on the progress of veteran home construction and funding.

The MDVA spoke at length about the ongoing construction within the state's VA system, which would dramatically increase the number of beds available to aging Minnesota veterans. However, testifiers stated that if the Legislature doesn't appropriate the funding required to leverage federal dollars this year, the state's deficit could rise from around 150 beds to nearly 250.

"Minnesota's servicemen and women deserve our very best, and no veteran should be without the security of a home as they grow older," Saxhaug said in a news release. "As we collaborate with the House to decide on the year's final budget, I'm going to work hard to protect this funding and ensure our veterans receive the services they deserve."

Saxhaug's bill appropriates $500,000 for a study to bring greater clarity to the mental health needs of veterans in Minnesota. The DVA and Lutheran Social Services have partnered to address veterans' mental health needs in the first public/private partnership of its kind in the nation.

"Veterans have been underserved for decades in the area of mental health," said Saxhaug. "We have an obligation to our veterans to take care of them after they arrive home, and the bills presented today are important steps in meeting the needs of our brave men and women who served."

For more information, contact Bryan Wells at 651-296-5561.

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