Chapter 292 Veterans’ Affairs; Service Officers

Link to law: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0200-0299%2F0292%2F0292.html
Published: 2015

TITLE XX
VETERANS

CHAPTER 292
VETERANS’ AFFAIRS; SERVICE OFFICERS

292.05 Duties of Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

292.055 Direct-support organization.

292.10 Local governing bodies authorized to assist war veterans; powers.

292.11 County and city veteran service officer.

292.12 Cooperation with other agencies.

292.13 Services to be without charge.

292.14 Construction of law.

292.15 Taxation and appropriation.

292.16 Construction of ss. 292.10-292.15.

292.05 Duties of Department of Veterans’ Affairs.—
(1) The Department of Veterans’ Affairs shall provide assistance to all former, present, and future members of the Armed Forces of the United States and their dependents in preparing claims for and securing such compensation, hospitalization, career training, and other benefits or privileges to which such persons or any of them are or may become entitled under any federal or state law or regulation by reason of their service in the Armed Forces of the United States. All services rendered under this subsection shall be without charge to the claimant.

(2) The executive director of the department may employ such personnel and incur such expenses as he or she may deem necessary to administer this chapter and may also prescribe the salary standards, rights, powers, duties, and qualifications of all persons employed by the department. The director and his or her staff shall be reimbursed for travel expenses as provided in s. 112.061.

(3) The department has authority to adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to implement the provisions of this chapter.

(4) The department may apply for and accept funds, grants, gifts, and services from the state, the United States Government or any of its agencies, or any other public or private source and may use funds derived from these sources to defray clerical and administrative costs as may be necessary for carrying out its duties.

(5) The department shall conduct an ongoing study on the problems and needs of those residents of this state who are veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States and the problems and needs of their dependents. The study shall include, but not be limited to:
(a) A survey of existing state and federal programs available for such persons that specifies the extent to which such programs presently are being implemented, with recommendations for the improved implementation, extension, or improvement of such programs.

(b) A survey of the needs of such persons in the areas of social services, health care, education, and employment, and any other areas of determined need, with recommendations regarding federal, state, and community services that would meet those needs.

(c) A survey of federal, state, public, and private moneys available that could be used to defray the costs of state or community services needed for such persons.

(6) The department shall, by December 31 of each year, submit an annual written report to the Governor, the Cabinet, and the Legislature which describes:
(a) The expenses incurred in veteran service work in the state; the number, nature, and kind of cases handled by the department and by county and city veteran service officers of the state; the amounts of benefits obtained for veterans; the names and addresses of all certified veteran service officers, including county and city veteran service officers. The report must also describe the actions taken by the department in implementing subsections (4), (5), and (7) and include other information and recommendations as the department requires.

(b) The current status of the department’s domiciliary and nursing homes established pursuant to chapter 296, including all receipts and expenditures, the condition of the homes, the number of residents received and discharged during the preceding year, occupancy rates, staffing, and any other information necessary to provide an understanding of the management, conduct, and operation of the homes.

(7) The department shall administer this chapter and shall have the authority and responsibility to apply for and administer any federal programs and develop and coordinate such state programs as may be beneficial to the particular interests of the veterans of this state. Such programs shall be subject to chapters 215 and 216.

History.—s. 2, ch. 22695, 1945; s. 23, ch. 63-572; ss. 18, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 74-163; ss. 2, 9, ch. 77-330; s. 2, ch. 81-122; s. 28, ch. 81-167; s. 1, ch. 81-288; s. 3, ch. 82-387; s. 11, ch. 84-114; s. 10, ch. 87-356; s. 18, ch. 88-290; s. 2, ch. 92-80; s. 241, ch. 95-148; s. 58, ch. 98-200; s. 24, ch. 2004-357; s. 75, ch. 2010-102.

292.055 Direct-support organization.—
(1) SHORT TITLE; DIRECT-SUPPORT ORGANIZATION ESTABLISHED.—This section may be cited as the “Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith Memorial Act.” The Department of Veterans’ Affairs may establish a direct-support organization to provide assistance, funding, and support for the department in carrying out its mission. This section governs the creation, use, powers, and duties of the direct-support organization.

(2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Department” means the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

(b) “Direct-support organization” means an organization that is:
1. A Florida corporation not for profit, incorporated under chapter 617, exempted from filing fees, and approved by the Department of State.

2. Organized and operated exclusively to obtain funds; request and receive grants, gifts, and bequests of moneys; acquire, receive, hold, invest, and administer in its own name securities, funds, or property; and make expenditures to or for the direct or indirect benefit of the department, the veterans of this state, and congressionally chartered veteran service organizations having subdivisions that are incorporated in this state.

3. Determined by the department to be operating in a manner consistent with the goals of the department and in the best interest of the state.

(c) “Personal services” includes full-time or part-time personnel.

(3) BOARD OF DIRECTORS.—The direct-support organization shall be governed by a board of directors.
(a) The board of directors shall consist of no fewer than five members appointed by the executive director of the department. Veteran service organizations in this state may recommend nominees to the executive director of the department.

(b) The term of office of the board members shall be 3 years, except that the terms of the initial appointees shall be for 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years in order to achieve staggered terms. A member may be reappointed when his or her term expires. The executive director of the department or his or her designee shall serve as an ex officio member of the board of directors.

(c) Members must be current residents of this state. A majority of the members must be veterans, as defined in s. 1.01(14), and highly knowledgeable about the United States military, its service personnel, its veterans, and its missions. The executive director of the department may remove any member of the board for cause and with the approval of a majority of the members of the board of directors. The executive director of the department shall appoint a replacement for any vacancy that occurs.

(4) CONTRACT.—A direct-support organization shall operate under a written contract with the department. The written contract must provide for:
(a) Certification by the department that the direct-support organization is complying with the terms of the contract and is doing so consistent with the goals and purposes of the department and in the best interests of the state. This certification must be made annually and reported in the official minutes of a meeting of the direct-support organization.

(b) The reversion of moneys and property held by the direct-support organization:
1. To the department if the direct-support organization is no longer approved to operate for the department;

2. To the department if the direct-support organization ceases to exist; or

3. To the state if the department ceases to exist.

(c) The disclosure of the material provisions of the contract, and the distinction between the department and the direct-support organization, to donors of gifts, contributions, or bequests, including such disclosure on all promotional and fundraising publications.

(5) USE OF PROPERTY.—
(a) The department may permit the use of property, facilities, and personal services of the department by the direct-support organization, subject to this section.

(b) The department may prescribe by contract any condition with which the direct-support organization must comply in order to use property, facilities, or personal services of the department.

(c) The department may not permit the use of its property, facilities, or personal services by any direct-support organization organized under this section which does not provide equal employment opportunities to all persons regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, or religion.

(6) ACTIVITIES; RESTRICTIONS.—Any transaction or agreement between the direct-support organization organized under this section and another direct-support organization or other entity must be approved by the executive director of the department.

(7) ANNUAL BUDGETS AND REPORTS.—
(a) The fiscal year of the direct-support organization shall begin on July 1 of each year and end on June 30 of the following year.

(b) The direct-support organization shall submit to the department its federal Internal Revenue Service Application for Recognition of Exemption form (Form 1023) and its federal Internal Revenue Service Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax form (Form 990).

(8) ANNUAL AUDIT.—The direct-support organization shall provide for an annual financial audit in accordance with s. 215.981.

(9) CONFIDENTIALITY OF DONORS.—
(a) Any information identifying a donor or prospective donor to the direct-support organization who desires to remain anonymous is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.

(b) Portions of meetings of the direct-support organization during which the identity of a donor or prospective donor, whose identity is confidential and exempt pursuant to paragraph (a), is discussed are exempt from s. 286.011 and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution.

(10) REPEAL.—This section is repealed October 1, 2017, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature.

History.—s. 1, ch. 2008-84; s. 1, ch. 2008-85; s. 1, ch. 2013-97; s. 16, ch. 2014-96.

292.10 Local governing bodies authorized to assist war veterans; powers.—The board of county commissioners of each county and the governing body of each city in the state are hereby granted full and complete power and authority to aid and assist wherever practical and feasible the veterans, male and female, who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States in any war and received an honorable discharge from any branch of the military service of the United States, and their dependents, in presenting claims for and securing such compensation, hospitalization, education, loans, career training, and other benefits or privileges to which said veterans, or any of them, are or may become entitled under any federal or state law or regulation by reason of their service in the Armed Forces of the United States.
History.—s. 1, ch. 23017, 1945; s. 4, ch. 77-330; s. 25, ch. 2004-357.

292.11 County and city veteran service officer.—
(1) Each board of county commissioners may employ a county veteran service officer; provide office space, clerical assistance, and the necessary supplies incidental to providing and maintaining a county service office; and pay said expenses and salaries from the moneys hereinafter provided for. The governing body of any city may employ a city veteran service officer; provide such office space, clerical assistance, and supplies; and pay expenses and salaries. A county or city veteran service officer must be a veteran who served as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States during a period of war, as defined in Title 38, U.S.C.; who served at least 18 months’ active duty in the Armed Forces; and who was separated from such service under honorable conditions, or the surviving spouse of any such veteran. Any honorably discharged wartime veteran who was so discharged for service-connected or aggravated medical reasons before serving 18 months of active duty; who completed a tour of duty other than active duty for training, regardless of the length of the tour; or who satisfied his or her military obligation in a manner other than active duty for training or reserve duty shall be eligible for employment as a county or city veteran service officer. Every county or city veteran service officer, in order to be eligible for employment as a county or city veteran service officer, shall have a 2-year degree from an accredited university, college, or community college or a high school degree or equivalency diploma and 4 years of administrative experience.

(2) Any county or city desiring to employ a county or city veteran service officer under the provisions of this section may notify the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of its intention to do so and may furnish the department with the name or names of any person or persons applying to fill such position, along with documentation supporting the qualifications thereof. The department shall thereupon certify to such county or city the name or names of candidates for such position who meet the requirements and qualifications prescribed by the department. The county or city may thereupon employ any person or persons so certified by the department. Duties, compensation, and terms of employment shall be prescribed by the board of county commissioners or, where applicable, by the governing body of the city.

(3) Any person employed by any county or city under the provisions of this section shall, from the time of his or her employment, be subject to such rules as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs may from time to time prescribe. Appropriations made by any county or city, or both, for the purposes set forth in this section are hereby declared to be appropriations for a county or municipal purpose, as the case may be.

(4) The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is directed to establish a training program for county and city veteran service officers. Every county or city veteran service officer employed under this chapter shall attend the training program established by the department and successfully complete a test administered by the department prior to assuming any responsibilities as a county or city veteran service officer. The department shall further establish periodic training refresher courses which each county or city veteran service officer must attend and complete as a condition of remaining in employment as a county or city veteran service officer. County and city veteran service officers shall be reimbursed for travel expenses, as provided in s. 112.061, in fulfilling the requirements of this section.

(5) The provisions of subsection (1) shall not apply to, or in any way affect, the employment of any county or city service officer who was so employed prior to July 1, 1974.

History.—s. 2, ch. 23017, 1945; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 74-288; s. 5, ch. 77-330; s. 121, ch. 79-400; s. 30, ch. 81-167; s. 3, ch. 81-288; s. 30, ch. 83-55; s. 20, ch. 88-290; s. 242, ch. 95-148.

292.12 Cooperation with other agencies.—The board of county commissioners of each county and the governing body of each city in the state may, in order to accomplish the purposes of this law, work jointly with any agency of the Federal Government, any present or future state agency or commission, or any other county in the state, or any municipality in such county; may contribute directly from the funds herein provided to any such agency, commission, political entity, or municipality in furtherance of the purpose of this law; and may, with any other county or municipality, employ jointly a county or city veteran service officer to carry out for such counties and cities the purposes of this law.
History.—s. 3, ch. 23017, 1945; s. 6, ch. 77-330; s. 122, ch. 79-400.

292.13 Services to be without charge.—All services performed by any county or city veteran service officer employed hereunder for any veteran or his or her dependents shall be rendered without charge to said veteran or said dependents.
History.—s. 4, ch. 23017, 1945; s. 7, ch. 77-330.

292.14 Construction of law.—It is the intent and purpose of the Legislature that in construing this law the broadest interpretation be given to the same, in order to carry out and effectuate the purposes of this law.
History.—s. 5, ch. 23017, 1945.

292.15 Taxation and appropriation.—The boards of county commissioners of the several counties of the state be and the same are hereby expressly authorized and empowered to levy a tax not to exceed one-half mill, or use available funds on hand and unappropriated, whether derived from taxation or otherwise, for the purpose of aiding and assisting the veterans described in s. 292.10, by providing a veteran service officer and maintaining a veteran service office in said county, and to disburse said moneys at such times and in such manner and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by resolution of said boards of county commissioners from time to time.
History.—s. 6, ch. 23017, 1945; s. 8, ch. 77-330.

292.16 Construction of ss. 292.10-292.15.—Sections 292.10 to 292.15 shall not be construed to be exclusive, but shall be cumulative and supplemental to other acts relating to the same general purposes of this law.
History.—s. 7, ch. 23017, 1945.
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