“Those without vision perish.” That is not the case for Arizona State Representative Frank Antenori, and his colleagues who had the vision and courage to penetrate decades of denial of benefits to disabled veterans that have been granted in many States for 40 years.
House Bill 2350: Tuition Waivers For Wounded Veterans, was signed by Governor Brewer on Friday. But with all the hoopla and circus of the Immigration Bill, the advocacy and diligence it took to get this fine piece of legislation pass the Board of Regents, has remained in the shade. Ironically that is often the way with Veterans Affairs. We give lip service to supporting veterans of war, but so seldom are there substantive results.
Antenori’s bill will mandate that Arizona community colleges and universities must provide tuition waiver scholarships to veterans whose wounds left them with a 50 percent disability rating, and a purple heart. These benefits could then be transfered to either ones spouse or children under the age of 30.
“These veterans are economically challenged with their disabilities, and their chances for working our going to be limited,” Antenori said.
For years, easily the past three decades, Arizona legislators, including the Board of Regents, and their administrative counterparts at all three major universities; Arizona State, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona have either blocked like kind legislation and or never allowed it to get out of committee. All of our fraternal organizations, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, AmVets, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, combined, have never been able to penetrate this veil of shame, even though all three of the universities take federal monies.
Three of the largest military installations in the United States are in Arizona, and we have not been able to take care of our vets the way this legislation proposes. Congratulations Antenori and company! This is the very reason we need more veterans in elected office.
And how did I learn of this bill that so many of my pals have worked to accomplish for most of their adult life? By an accidental conversation with a Vietnam Veteran who was recently elected as a vice president of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America; Chapter #106. David Alegria, a Purple Heart recipient and the current President of the Purple Heart Association shared with myself and a couple of Iraq vets the exact modus operandi of getting this past the naysayers.
It is well known that the employees and their spouses get free tuition at our State Universities. Their dependents get a 75% discount on tuition. Juxtapose this with veterans who have signed over their life and soul for our country and it looks a bit silly to not grant the same perks. Especially when one proclaims they will publish a list of all those who get those benefits, including part time employees who are of great financial substance.
I know of these folks. One time while hobnobbing in the VIP room at a Football game, I meandered out to the terrace for a Pepsi. I was startled to see a very wealthy real estate developer working the booth. “What in the world are you doing here,” I asked. He stated with great pride of forethought that he took the job to get free tuition for his kids. I was floored! I later inquired about one of these jobs, anticipating the same financial foresight for my children, as this real estate maven had arranged. I soon discovered that this was a rather exclusive clan and that I would probably have to wait a very long time for one of those jeweled positions. Even a family President Club membership would not move me up in the ranks of the select.
To place this favored status on the table next to our veterans of war, who insure the very existence of higher education, was a stroke of genius on the part of Antenori and Alegria.
Too bad this never made the evening news. You all know that story.