Law:Title 4. Executive Branch. Subtitle C. State Military Forces And Veterans from Chapter 434. Veteran Assistance Agencies (Texas)

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Subtitle C. State Military Forces And Veterans

Contents

Chapter 434. Veteran Assistance Agencies

Subchapter A. Texas Veterans Commission

Section  434.001.  Commission.

The Texas Veterans Commission is an agency of the state.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.002.  Application Of Sunset, Open Meetings, And Administrative Procedure Laws.

(a) The Texas Veterans Commission is subject to Chapter 325 (Texas Sunset Act).  Unless continued in existence as provided by that chapter, the commission is abolished September 1, 2013.

(b)  The commission is subject to Chapter 551, and Chapter 2001.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., 1st C.S., ch. 17, Sec. 3.07, eff. Nov. 12, 1991; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, Sec. 5.95(50), (83), eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 970, Sec. 2.02, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1169, Sec. 2.02, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1481, Sec. 2.03, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1112, Sec. 2.01, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section  434.003.  Members.

(a) The commission is composed of five members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate.  The governor shall make each appointment without regard to the race, color, disability, sex, religion, age, or national origin of the appointee.

(b)  A member must be a citizen and resident of the state. At least three members must have been honorably discharged or honorably released from active military service of the United States. At least one member must be a person classified as a disabled veteran by the United States Veterans Administration or the branch of the United States armed forces in which the person served. This person's disability must be service-connected and compensable.

(c)  A person having a less than honorable discharge from military service is not eligible to be a member. No two members may reside in the same senatorial district.

(d)  Members are appointed for staggered six-year terms.

(e)  A person may not be a member of the commission if the person or the person's spouse:

(1)  is employed by or participates in the management of a business entity or other organization, other than a veterans service organization, receiving money from the commission; or

(2)  owns or controls, directly or indirectly, more than a 10 percent interest in a business entity or other organization receiving money from the commission.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1170, Sec. 45.01, eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., 3rd C.S., ch. 3, Sec. 12.01, eff. Jan. 11, 2004.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.004.  Conflict Of Interest.

(a) In this section, "Texas trade association" means a cooperative and voluntarily joined statewide association of business or professional competitors in this state designed to assist its members and its industry or profession in dealing with mutual business or professional problems and in promoting their common interest.

(b)  A person may not be a commission employee employed in a "bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity," as that phrase is used for purposes of establishing an exemption to the overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. Section 201 et seq.), if:

(1)  the person is an officer, employee, or paid consultant of a Texas or national veterans service organization or a Texas trade association in the field of labor, workforce development, or career schools and colleges; or

(2)  the person's spouse is an officer, manager, or paid consultant of a Texas or national veterans service organization or a Texas trade association in the field of labor, workforce development, or career schools and colleges.

(c)  A person may not serve as a member of the commission if:

(1)  the person is an officer, employee, or paid consultant of a Texas trade association in the field of labor, workforce development, or career schools and colleges; or

(2)  the person's spouse is an officer, manager, or paid consultant of a Texas trade association in the field of labor, workforce development, or career schools and colleges.

(d)  A person required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305 because of activities on behalf of a veterans association may not serve as a member of or as general counsel to the commission.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.005.  Removal.

(a) It is a ground for removal from the commission if a member:

(1)  does not have at the time of taking office, or does not maintain during the service on the commission, the qualifications required by Section 434.003 for appointment to the commission;

(2)  violates a prohibition under Section 434.004;

(3)  fails to attend at least half of the regularly scheduled commission meetings held in a calendar year, excluding meetings held while the person was not a member of the commission without an excuse approved by a majority vote of the commission; or

(4)  cannot, because of illness or disability, discharge the member's duties for a substantial part of the member's term.

(b)  The validity of an action of the commission is not affected by the fact that it is taken when a ground for removal of a commission member exists.

(c)  If the executive director has knowledge that a potential ground for removal exists, the executive director shall notify the presiding officer of the commission of the potential ground.  The presiding officer shall then notify the governor and the attorney general that a potential ground for removal exists.  If the potential ground for removal involves the presiding officer, the executive director shall notify the next highest ranking officer of the commission, who shall then notify the governor and the attorney general that a potential ground for removal exists.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 4, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.006.  Officers; Commission Actions.

(a) The governor shall designate a member of the commission as the presiding officer of the commission to serve in that capacity at the pleasure of the governor.

(b)  The commission annually shall elect from among its members an assistant presiding officer and a secretary.  An officer shall serve until the officer's successor is appointed and qualified.

(c)  The commission shall meet at least once in each three-month period.  No action may be taken by less than a majority of the commission.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 5, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.0061.  Training.

(a) A person who is appointed to and qualifies for office as a member of the commission may not vote, deliberate, or be counted as a member in attendance at a meeting of the commission until the person completes a training program that complies with this section.

(b)  The training program must provide the person with information regarding:

(1)  the legislation that created the commission;

(2)  the programs, functions, rules, and budget of the commission;

(3)  the results of the most recent formal audit of the commission;

(4)  the requirements of laws relating to open meetings, public information, administrative procedure, and conflicts of interest; and

(5)  any applicable ethics policies adopted by the commission or the Texas Ethics Commission.

(c)  A person appointed to the commission is entitled to reimbursement, as provided by the General Appropriations Act, for the travel expenses incurred in attending the training program regardless of whether the attendance at the program occurs before or after the person qualifies for office.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 6, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.007.  Duties.

The commission shall:

(1)  compile federal, state, and local laws enacted to benefit members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families and dependents;

(2)  collect information relating to services and facilities available to veterans;

(3)  cooperate with veterans service agencies in the state;

(4)  inform members and veterans of the armed forces, their families and dependents, and military and civilian authorities about the existence or availability of:

(A)  educational training and retraining facilities;

(B)  health, medical, rehabilitation, and housing services and facilities;

(C)  employment and reemployment services;

(D)  provisions of federal, state, and local law affording rights, privileges, and benefits to members and veterans of the armed forces and their families and dependents; and

(E)  other similar, related, or appropriate matters;

(5)  assist veterans and their families and dependents in presenting, proving, and establishing claims, privileges, rights, and benefits they may have under federal, state, or local law;

(6)  cooperate with all government and private agencies securing services or benefits to veterans and their families and dependents;

(7)  investigate, and if possible correct, abuses or exploitation of veterans or their families or dependents, and recommend necessary legislation for full correction;

(8)  coordinate the services and activities of state departments and divisions having services and resources affecting veterans or their families or dependents;

(9)  provide training and certification of veterans county service officers and assistant veterans county service officers in accordance with Section 434.038; and

(10)  through surveys or other reasonable and accurate methods of estimation, collect and maintain for each county in the state the number of servicemembers and veterans residing in the county and annually update and publish the information on the commission's website.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 364, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1381, Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section  434.0071.  Memorandum Of Understanding.

The commission shall adopt a joint memorandum of understanding with the following governmental entities to coordinate the provision of services to state military veterans:

(1)  the Texas Workforce Commission;

(2)  the Veterans' Land Board; and

(3)  any other agency of the state that administers a program applicable only to veterans or the family members of veterans.

Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 175, Sec. 1, eff. May 18, 2001.



Section 434.0072. "taps" Tuition Voucher Program.

(a) In this section, "institution of higher education" and "private or independent institution of higher education" have the meanings assigned by Section 61.003, Education Code.

(b)  The commission shall establish a program to issue vouchers to be exchanged for an exemption from the payment of tuition and required fees at an institution of higher education as provided by Section 54.215, Education Code, to students in grades 6 through 12 or at postsecondary educational institutions who sound "Taps" on a bugle, trumpet, or cornet during military honors funerals held in this state for deceased veterans.  A voucher must be issued in the amount of $25 for each time a student sounds "Taps" as described by this subsection.

(c)  The commission by rule shall design a form for the vouchers and distribute the form, with an explanation of the form's use, to each funeral director in this state for issuance to a person who is eligible to receive a voucher under this section.  The commission may not charge a fee for distribution of the form.

(d)  The commission shall encourage a private or independent institution of higher education to grant a tuition and fee exemption in exchange for a voucher.

(e)  A voucher issued under this section may be used by the student at any time and is not transferable.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 660, Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 2007.



Section 434.0076.  Record Of Complaints.

(a) The commission shall maintain a system to promptly and efficiently act on complaints filed with the commission.  The commission shall maintain information about parties to the complaint, the subject matter of the complaint, a summary of the results of the review or investigation of the complaint, and its disposition.

(b)  The commission shall make information available describing its procedures for complaint investigation and resolution.

(c)  The commission shall periodically notify the complaint parties of the status of the complaint until final disposition.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 7, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.0077.  Negotiated Rulemaking And Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures.

(a) The commission shall develop and implement a policy to encourage the use of:

(1)  negotiated rulemaking procedures under Chapter 2008 for the adoption of commission rules; and

(2)  appropriate alternative dispute resolution procedures under Chapter 2009 to assist in the resolution of internal and external disputes under the commission's jurisdiction.

(b)  The commission's procedures relating to alternative dispute resolution shall conform, to the extent possible, to any model guidelines issued by the State Office of Administrative Hearings for the use of alternative dispute resolution by state agencies.

(c)  The commission shall designate a trained person to:

(1)  coordinate the implementation of the policy adopted under Subsection (a);

(2)  serve as a resource for any training needed to implement the procedures for negotiated rulemaking or alternative dispute resolution; and

(3)  collect data concerning the effectiveness of those procedures, as implemented by the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 7, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.0078.  Claims Assistance Services. (a)

The commission shall adopt procedures for administering claims assistance services under Section 434.007(5).  The procedures shall include:

(1)  criteria for determining when a veteran's initial claim is substantially complete and basic eligibility requirements are met as provided by federal law;

(2)  a process for expediting a claim based on hardship, including whether the veteran:

(A)  is in immediate need;

(B)  is terminally ill;

(C)  has a verifiable financial hardship; or

(D)  has a disability that presents an undue burden;

(3)  a procedure for counseling veterans on the potential merits or drawbacks of pursuing a claim;

(4)  a process to ensure adequate documentation and development of a claim or appeal, including early client involvement, collection of needed evidence and records, and analysis of actions necessary to pursue and support a claim or appeal;

(5)  criteria for evaluating whether a decision of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs contains sufficient cause for filing an appeal;

(6)  a requirement that a claims counselor report to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs if the counselor has direct knowledge that a claim contains false or deceptive information; and

(7)  a procedure for prioritizing a claim, when appropriate, or providing an alternative source for obtaining claims assistance services when it is not appropriate to prioritize.

(b)  The commission shall consult with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in developing the procedures under Subsection (a) to:

(1)  ensure the services provided by the commission do not unnecessarily duplicate services provided through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs;

(2)  ensure that the procedures will provide for resolving disputes at the lowest level of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs benefit decision process;

(3)  ensure that commission employees are not improperly involved in adjudicating claims; and

(4)  establish broad areas of cooperation between the commission and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to streamline and align the commission's service delivery with United States Department of Veterans Affairs processes, including:

(A)  identifying processes to update changes to veterans' cases and power of attorney designation;

(B)  cooperating to expedite hardship cases and appeals; and

(C)  identifying opportunities for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the commission with necessary data to assist with tracking the progress and outcomes of claims.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 7, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section  434.008.  Fees Prohibited.

The commission may not charge a fee or permit the payment of a fee by an applicant to a third person for services rendered by the commission.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.009.  Executive Director.

(a) The commission shall employ an executive director qualified by experience and training to administer the policies of the commission.

(b)  The executive director shall:

(1)  place into operation the policies and instructions of the commission;

(2)  serve as the executive officer of the commission, without the power to vote;

(3)  be in charge of commission offices;

(4)  direct the paid personnel of the commission; and

(5)  be responsible to the commission for all reports, data, and similar information required by the commission.

(c)  The executive director may:

(1)  administer oaths;

(2)  certify official acts under the commission's seal;

(3)  take depositions inside or outside the state, as provided by law; and

(4)  compel the production of pertinent books, accounts, records, and documents.

(d)  The executive director shall devote the executive director's entire time to the duties of the office and may not actively engage or be employed in another business, vocation, or profession.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section 434.0091.  Separation Of Policymaking And Management Responsibilities.

The commission shall develop and implement policies that clearly separate the policymaking responsibilities of the commission and the management responsibilities of the executive director and the staff of the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 8, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.010.  Rules.

(a) The commission may adopt rules that it considers necessary for its administration.

(b)  The commission shall adopt procedures for receiving input and recommendations from interested persons regarding the development of rules and policies.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 9, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.0101.  Advisory Committees.

(a) In developing procedures under Section 434.010, the commission may establish and appoint members to an advisory committee to advise and make recommendations to the commission on programs, rules, and policies affecting the delivery of services to veterans.

(b)  If the commission establishes an advisory committee under Subsection (a), the commission shall adopt rules regarding:

(1)  the purpose, role, and goals of the committee;

(2)  the size and quorum requirements of the committee;

(3)  the qualifications of the members and the criteria for selecting members;

(4)  the procedures for appointing members;

(5)  the terms of service of members;

(6)  the training requirements of members;

(7)  the implementation of a needs assessment process to regularly evaluate the continuing need for the committee; and

(8)  a requirement that the committee comply with Chapter 551.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 10, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section  434.011.  Office; Expenses; Employees.

(a) The state shall provide the commission suitable offices and office equipment in Austin. The commission may incur the expenses necessary to perform its work.

(b)  The commission shall employ sufficient office personnel, stenographers, typists, and clerical help to maintain the efficient operation of the office.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.012.  Compensation And Expenses.

(a) A member of the commission is entitled to a per diem as set by legislative appropriation for each day that the member engages in commission business.

(b)  A member is entitled to receive compensation for meals, lodging, or other travel expenses as provided by the General Appropriations Act.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.013.  Finances.

(a) The financial transactions of the commission are subject to audit by the state auditor in accordance with Chapter 321, Government Code.

(b)  On or before December 1 each year, the commission shall make a written report to the governor and the presiding officer of each house of the legislature. The report must include a complete and detailed accounting for all money received and disbursed by the commission during the preceding year.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 584, Sec. 24, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.



Section  434.014.  Employment Practices.

(a) The executive director or the executive director's designee shall develop a career ladder program.  The program must require that openings in all positions except entry level positions be posted within the commission concurrently with any public posting.

(b)  The executive director or the executive director's designee shall develop a system of annual performance evaluation based on measurable job tasks. Merit pay for commission employees must be based on this system.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section  434.015.  Information Of Public Interest.

The commission shall prepare information of public interest describing the functions of the commission and the procedures for filing and for resolution by the commission of public complaints. The commission shall make the information available to the general public and appropriate state agencies.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section 434.0151.  Public Participation.

The commission shall develop and implement policies that provide the public with a reasonable opportunity to appear before the commission and to speak on any issue under the jurisdiction of the commission.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 11, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.016.  Gifts And Grants.

The commission may accept gifts of money and property and may accept grants.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 395, Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2005.



Section 434.0161.  Use Of Funds To Support Outreach And Training.

The commission may use appropriated funds to purchase, for use at outreach and training functions:

(1)  promotional items that include the agency's name and contact information to be distributed to veterans; and

(2)  food and beverages.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 2, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 434.017. Fund For Veterans' Assistance.

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Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 840, Sec. 1

 

(a)  The fund for veterans' assistance is a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund.  The fund is composed of:

(1)  money transferred to the fund at the direction of the legislature;

(2)  money deposited to the credit of the fund under Section 502.1746, Transportation Code;

(3)  gifts and grants contributed to the fund; and

(4) the earnings of the fund.

 

Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 3

 

(a)  The fund for veterans' assistance is a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund.  The fund is composed of:

(1)  money transferred to the fund at the direction of the legislature;

(2)  gifts and grants contributed to the fund;

(3)  the earnings of the fund; and

(4)  money transferred to the fund from proceeds of the lottery game operated under Section 466.027 or transferred to the fund under Section 466.408(b).

(b)  Except as provided by Subsections (c) and (e), money in the fund may not be appropriated for any purpose.

(c)  Money in the fund may be appropriated to the Texas Veterans Commission to:

(1)  enhance or improve veterans' assistance programs, including veterans' representation and counseling;

(2)  make grants to address veterans' needs; and

(3)  administer the fund.

(d)  The Texas Veterans Commission may adopt rules governing the award of grants by the commission under this section.

 

Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 840, Sec. 1

 

(e)  To carry out any purpose of this chapter, the Texas Veterans Commission may solicit and accept a gift, grant, devise, bequest of money, security, service, or property, including money raised or a service provided by a volunteer or volunteer group, to promote the work of the commission.  The commission may participate in the establishment and operation of an affiliated nonprofit organization that is established for the purpose of raising money for or providing services or other benefits to the commission.  A gift, grant, devise, or bequest to the fund may be appropriated in the same manner as other money in the fund, subject to any limitation or requirement placed on the gift, grant, devise, or bequest by the donor or granting entity.

 

Text of subsection as amended by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 3

 

(e)  The commission may solicit, accept, or refuse a gift or grant of money, services, or property for any purpose related to the fund for veterans' assistance.  A gift or grant to the fund may be appropriated in the same manner as other money in the fund, subject to any limitation or requirement placed on the gift or grant by the donor or granting entity.

(f)  Sections 403.095 and 404.071 do not apply to the fund.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 395, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.

Redesignated from Government Code, Section 403.108 and amended by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1418, Sec. 16(a), eff. June 15, 2007.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 840, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 2009.

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 3, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 434.0171.  State Employee Contributions To Fund For Veterans' Assistance.

For purposes of Subchapter I, Chapter 659:

(1)  the Texas Veterans Commission, for the sole purpose of managing the fund for veterans' assistance, is considered an eligible charitable organization entitled to participate in the state employee charitable campaign; and

(2)  a state employee is entitled to authorize a deduction for contributions to the Texas Veterans Commission for the purposes of managing the fund for veterans' assistance as a charitable contribution under Section 659.132, and the Texas Veterans Commission may use the contributions for the purposes listed in Section 434.017(c), as redesignated and amended by Chapter 1418 (H.B. 3107), Acts of the 80th Legislature, Regular Session, 2007.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 840, Sec. 2, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 434.018.  Performance Incentive Award. (a)

The commission may make a performance incentive award to an individual or an entity for providing services to veterans as authorized by Section 3(a) of the federal Jobs for Veterans Act (38 U.S.C. Section 4112).

(b)  The performance incentive award may be monetary or nonmonetary.

(c)  A performance incentive award made under this section to a state employee is not a promotion or a merit salary increase under Chapter 659.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 364, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2007.

Renumbered from Government Code, Section 434.017 by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 87, Sec. 27.001(29), eff. September 1, 2009.



Section 434.019.  Veterans Hospital.

(a) The Texas Veterans Commission and the Department of State Health Services shall work with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and any other appropriate federal agency to propose that the federal government establish a veterans hospital in the Rio Grande Valley region of the state.

(b)  The state may contribute money, property, and other resources to the establishment, maintenance, and operation of a veterans hospital described by this section.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 439, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 434.020.  Notice To State Cemetery Committee Of Servicemember's Death.

The Texas Veterans Commission shall notify the State Cemetery Committee as soon as practicable after the commission receives notice of the death of a member of the United States armed forces from the state who is killed while serving in a combat zone.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1394, Sec. 2, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section 434.021.  Confidential Information Received By The Commission.

Information received by the commission that is confidential under Chapter 552 remains confidential regardless of the format in which the commission maintains the information.

Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1385, Sec. 2, eff. June 19, 2009.



Subchapter B. Veterans County Service Offices

Section  434.031.  Definitions.

In this subchapter:

(1)  "Office" means a Veterans County Service Office created under this subchapter.

(2)  "Officer" means a veterans county service officer or assistant veterans county service officer.

(3)  "Commission" means the Texas Veterans Commission.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 364, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.



Section  434.032.  Creation.

(a) In a county with a population of 200,000 or more, the commissioners court shall maintain a veterans county service office. The office must be:

(1)  separate and distinct from other county offices; and

(2)  staffed by at least one full-time employee.

(b)  In a county with a population of less than 200,000, the commissioners court, by a majority vote of its full membership, may maintain and operate a veterans county service office if the commissioners court determines that the office is a public necessity to enable county residents who are veterans to promptly, properly, and rightfully obtain benefits to which they are entitled.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.033.  Officers.

(a) A commissioners court that maintains and operates an office shall appoint a veterans county service officer and the number of assistant veterans county service officers that it considers necessary.

(b)  To be appointed as an officer a person must:

(1)  be qualified by education and training for the duties of the office;

(2)  be experienced in the law, regulations, and rulings of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs controlling cases that come before the commission;  and

(3)  have the service experience specified by Subsection (c) or be:

(A)  a widowed Gold Star Mother or unremarried widow of a serviceman or veteran whose death resulted from service; or

(B)  the spouse of a disabled veteran who has a total disability rating based either on having a service-connected disability with a disability rating of 100 percent or on individual unemployability.

(c)  To meet the service experience requirement of Subsection (b)(3) a person must have:

(1)  served on active duty in a branch of the armed forces of the United States;

(2)  served for at least four months or have a service-connected disability; and

(3)  been honorably discharged.

(d)  An officer serves at the pleasure of the commissioners court.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 364, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1194, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 2009.



Section  434.034.  Joint Employment.

The commissioners courts of any number of contiguous counties, by a majority vote of the full membership of each commissioners court, may agree to jointly establish an office and employ a veterans county service officer. The agreement must stipulate the amount of compensation and travel and other expenses to be paid by each county.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.035.  Duties.

An officer shall aid any county resident who served in the armed forces or nurses corps of the United States, and any orphan or dependent of the person, to prepare, submit, and present any claim against the United States or a state for benefits to which the person may be entitled under United States or state law. The officer shall defeat all unjust claims that come to the officer's attention.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section  434.036.  Prohibitions.

(a) An officer may not charge a fee or permit the payment of a fee by an applicant to a third person for services the officer renders under this subchapter.

(b)  An officer may not seek to influence the execution of a power of attorney to one national service organization over that of another.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.



Section 434.037.  Access To Records.

A state eleemosynary or penal institution shall give an officer access to its records to enable the officer to determine the status of a person confined in the institution relating to a benefit to which the person may be entitled.  Access to records of a penal institution is governed by rules of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Amended by:

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 87, Sec. 25.070, eff. September 1, 2009.



Section  434.038.  Training And Certification.

(a) An officer shall, within the time after the date of the officer's appointment that the commission prescribes, complete a course of initial training provided by the Texas Veterans Commission.  The commission shall issue the officer a certificate of training after completion of the initial training course.  To maintain certification, the officer shall complete continuing training to the extent required by the commission.  An officer must maintain certification to remain in office.

(a-1)  The commission shall develop and implement methods for providing training to officers.  The methods may include Internet-based seminars, participation through videoconference, cooperation with training provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and other methods as appropriate.

(b)  The commission shall provide, at commission expense, the initial and continuing training required by this section at least once each year.

(c)  The commissioners court of an officer's county shall reimburse an officer's travel and lodging expenses incurred in attending commission training unless state funds are appropriated for that purpose. If state funds are appropriated, the commission shall make the reimbursement in the manner prescribed for the reimbursement of these expenses to state employees.

(d)  The commission shall develop standard course materials, training curriculum, and examinations to be used for county service officer certification and United States Department of Veterans Affairs accreditation.  The members of the commission must approve the course materials, training curriculum, and examinations before the commission may distribute the materials and administer examinations.

(e)  The commission shall:

(1)  maintain course materials and examinations in a central location and provide county service offices and commission field staff with access to the course materials on the commission's Internet website;

(2)  regularly update course materials, training curriculum, and examinations after consulting with:

(A)  the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the course materials, training curriculum, and examinations are accurate and meet applicable United States Department of Veterans Affairs requirements; and

(B)  accredited county service officers to ensure the materials, training curriculum, and examinations include issues developing at the county level; and

(3)  develop a training handbook containing instruction and case studies addressing:

(A)  general assistance techniques, including how to provide general information regarding state and federal benefits and referrals for other services and to other agencies, and general information regarding state and federal benefits;

(B)  basic counseling approaches for assisting veterans, their family members, and other eligible dependents filing benefit claims;

(C)  basic information on United States Department of Veterans Affairs processes and procedures, including how to accurately complete claims and appeals forms and how to support claims;

(D)  methods of collecting required documentation and developing claims and appeals;

(E)  methods of documenting progress and updating a veteran's, a veteran's family member's, or another eligible dependent's case information;

(F)  methods of assisting veterans, their family members, or other eligible dependents in pursuing appeals, including offering case knowledge in appeals hearings; and

(G)  methods of representing veterans, their family members, or other eligible dependents during appeals hearings.

(f)  The commission may establish rules to carry out the purposes of this section, including rules regarding carryover of credit for extra course attendance from one year into subsequent years and the anniversary date by which the continuing certification requirement must be met.

Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 364, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.039.  Coordination With County Service Officers And Commissioners Courts.

The commission shall develop and adopt procedures to coordinate with county service officers and county commissioners courts to:

(1)  identify the shared objectives of the commission, county service officers, and counties with a county service office in serving veterans;

(2)  develop a plan for encouraging service officers to become accredited by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs;

(3)  develop a procedure for consulting with counties to evaluate the state's overall approach to service delivery by county service officers and commission claims staff as part of the state's veterans assistance network;

(4)  define the commission's responsibilities in overseeing claims and appeals prepared by county service officers for instances when the commission has been designated as a veteran's agent under a power of attorney;

(5)  develop a process for collecting information regarding claims filed by county service officers for instances when the commission has been designated as a veteran's agent under a power of attorney, for providing technical assistance to county service officers, and for providing evaluative information, on request, to county judges or other local officials who supervise county service officers;

(6)  incorporate county service officers into United States Department of Veterans Affairs appeals hearings either to represent veterans or to appear as witnesses, as needed;

(7)  explore opportunities for funding county service officer travel to participate in United States Department of Veterans Affairs appeals hearings; and

(8)  develop procedures to regularly update county service officers on changes in United States Department of Veterans Affairs policies and procedures, and other information.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 13, eff. September 1, 2007.



Subchapter C. Technology Services And Requirements

Section  434.101.  Definitions.

In this subchapter:

(1)  "Commission" means the Texas Veterans Commission.

(2)  "TexasOnline" has the meaning assigned by Section 2054.003.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section  434.102.  Veterans Website.

(a) The Department of Information Resources shall establish and maintain on TexasOnline a veterans website. The website must allow veterans to access information on state and federal veterans benefits programs.

(b)  A state agency that participates in the veterans website is encouraged to allow a veteran to electronically file for state veterans benefits, including the electronic signing of the filing by the veteran and an electronic acknowledgment of the filing.

(c)  The veterans website may allow a veteran to electronically file for selected federal veterans benefits, as specified by the commission.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section  434.103.  Commission Forms.

Commission forms shall contain:

(1)  the veterans website address maintained under Section 434.102; and

(2)  the commission's toll-free telephone number.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section  434.104.  Benefits Booklets.

(a) Not later than February 1 of each even-numbered year, the commission shall create an electronic version of a state veterans benefits booklet and provide a printed copy and an electronic version of the booklet to:

(1)  each veterans county service officer; and

(2)  the personnel office of each state or federal military installation in this state.

(b)  A veterans county service officer is encouraged to distribute a copy of the booklet to any person who claims or will claim Texas as a residence after discharge from the United States armed forces.

(c)  Each veterans county service officer shall make a copy of the booklet available at the veterans county service office.

(d)  The commission may update the booklet as necessary.

(e)  The commission shall provide an electronic version of the booklet on the commission's website.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section  434.105.  Electronic Access To Newsletter Or Services.

The commission, with the assistance of the executive director of the Department of Information Resources, may develop and implement a program that uses appropriate computer hardware and software and required training programs to facilitate electronic:

(1)  delivery of a veterans newsletter; and

(2)  initiation of veterans benefits claims by veterans county service officers.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section  434.106.  Donations; Computers For Veterans County Service Officers.

(a) The commission may accept donated computers from any person, including a governmental entity, and cooperate with that person to establish a program to provide computers at no cost to interested veterans county service officers.

(b)  A veterans county service officer who obtains a computer under this program shall:

(1)  make the computer available to veterans at the veterans county service office; or

(2)  lend the computer to veterans in a manner determined by the officer and approved by the county commissioners court.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 69, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003.



Section 434.107.  Use Of Technology.

The commission shall implement a policy requiring the commission to use appropriate technological solutions to improve the commission's ability to perform its functions.  The policy must ensure that the public is able to interact with the commission on the Internet.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1269, Sec. 14, eff. September 1, 2007.



Section 434.108.  Directory Of Services.

(a) The commission shall collaborate with and assist the Department of State Health Services and the Health and Human Services Commission in compiling and maintaining the directory of services established under Section 161.552, Health and Safety Code.

(b)  The commission shall provide the directory of services established under Section 161.552, Health and Safety Code, on the commission's website or through links appearing on the commission's website.

Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1381, Sec. 4, eff. September 1, 2007.

Renumbered from Government Code, Section 434.107 by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 87, Sec. 27.001(30), eff. September 1, 2009.


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