Snyder & Exum Bills Raise Pay for CO Military Forces, Improve Services for Veterans

Legislation advanced today would raise the minimum daily pay for state military forces and improve services for veterans in community living centers

DENVER, CO– Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representatives Tony Exum and Marc Snyder to raise the minimum daily pay for state military forces and improve services for veterans in community living centers today passed the House Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs.

“In 2018, 61 Colorado National Guard members were called to serve when the Spring Creek Fire, the third largest wildfire in our state’s history, swept through Southern Colorado,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “Their pay? Just $20 a day or $1.67 an hour. That is unacceptably low. As a former firefighter, I am appalled that we ask our fellow Coloradans to put themselves in harm’s way for such a low wage. This bill would more than triple the minimum daily pay, and I’m proud to see it move forward.”

Under current law, the governor can activate Colorado National Guard units during natural disasters or civil emergencies. The current rate of pay is determined by a member’s rank and years of service. The minimum rate of pay, however, is just $20 a day, and guard members usually work 12 hour shifts. Often, those called upon are enlisted at a level that pays the lowest rate. Under SB20-091, which is also sponsored by Representative Richard Holtorf, the minimum rate of pay would be more than tripled to $88 a day.

“Our region is home to one in four veterans in our state, and many are older veterans who rely on the services provided by veterans community living centers,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs. “We must ensure that Colorado veterans have access to the state services they need. This bill will take a deep dive into the services provided by veterans community living centers across the state, and it will help us improve how our state delivers these critical services.”

The state operates five veterans community living centers. The facilities provide long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, short-term respite care, memory care for individuals with dementia and end of-life/hospice services. HB20-1220, which is also sponsored by Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, requires the state to conduct a needs assessment to investigate:

  1. The changing demographics of the veteran population in Colorado
  2. The treatment needs of younger veterans
  3. The best practices for services and treatment of mental health conditions such as PTSD
  4. The benefits and limitations of providing services through the existing enters
  5. Alternatives models of care, such as constructing a new Colorado State Veterans Home
  6. The impact on long-term care facilities of the changing health care needs of veterans.

The five centers are located in Aurora, Florence, Monte Vista, Rifle, and Walsenburg. Recently, advocates and officials have begun the process of exploring how to build a Colorado State Veterans Home near Colorado Springs. The report, due in December 2020, will look at alternative models of care, such as a state veterans home.

The House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee also passed SB20-082, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain. The bill would create the Colorado Legion of Merit medal, which would be awarded to any person who has rendered service in a clearly exceptional, unprecedented or superior manner.

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