Assembly Bill Package to Provide Free Mental Health Services, Facilitate Access to Benefits & Resources to Gold Star Families Approved by Assembly Panel : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land

October 29, 2019 by No Comments

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Assembly Bill Package to Provide Free Mental Health Services, Facilitate Access to Benefits & Resources to Gold Star Families Approved by Assembly Panel

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(TRENTON) – A legislative package sponsored by Assemblymen Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce R. Land to provide mental health services and other resources to the families of service members who died while on active duty was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The term “Gold Star” describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service. A Gold Star Family member is defined to mean a spouse, parent, brother, sister, child, legal guardian, or other legal custodian.

The first bill (A-4399) would establish the “Gold Star Family Counseling Program” in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to help provide Gold Star family members with mental health care.

The Gold Star Family Counseling Program would recruit health care professionals to provide mental health counseling to Gold Star family members free of charge. Specifically, the DMVA is directed to recruit psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, social workers, and family counselors to provide counseling to Gold Star family members. In exchange for the counseling, the mental health care professionals could receive an annual tax credit equal to the compensation foregone for a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 40 hours of donated counseling time each year.

“The untimely death of a loved is devastating,” said Andrzejczak (Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) “Behind every soldier is a military family that contributed to the safety of our country. We have a responsibility to ensure their stability and well-being when they suffer a loss.”

The second bill (A-4401) would authorize the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission to approve and issue a driver’s license and an identification card with a Gold Star Family designation for certain family members of servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives while on active duty.

Under the bill, the holder of a driver’s license or identification card with a Gold Star Family designation would be eligible for certain benefits, including:
· Free or reduced price admission to New Jersey beaches;
· Free admission to State parks and forests;
· Free admission to the New Jersey State Museum;
· Waiver of license fees charged by several professional and occupational licensing boards in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety; and
· Admission into homes, institutions, and hospitals administered by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).
“We are indebted to these brave soldiers and their families. Anything we can do to make life a little easier for them is the honorable thing to do,” said Land (Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).

The third bill (A-4402) would require the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, when notified of the death of a military service member, to also notify the appropriate county veterans’ affairs office of the service member’s death. Under current law, the department is only required to notify the appropriate state veterans’ service office of the service member’s death.

This bill would also require every county office to have a designated Gold Star family liaison. The liaison, with the State veterans’ service offices, would assist Gold Star families to access the services they are entitled to by providing information on state benefits, Gold Star family organizations, and such other resources deemed necessary and beneficial to Gold Star families.

The last bill (A-4403) would require the Adjutant General to create a public webpage with information for Gold Star families. The webpage must include information about state benefits, state and county liaisons, a list of service members killed in action from New Jersey, links to other Gold Star family organizations, and any other information deemed beneficial to Gold Star families.
The bills were released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.