Senator Don Gaetz Reports: Florida GI Bill, Governor Scott to Honor NWFL Veterans July 3

Jul 2 • 782 Views • View Comments

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Dear Neighbor,

As we approach the celebration of Independence Day, I have some exciting news to report for members of our military, our veterans and their families.

Governor Scott will travel to Northwest Florida this Thursday, July 3, 2014, to honor veterans in Pensacola and Panama City. Information on these events is detailed below.

Date: July 3, 2014
Time: 10:00 a.m. (CDT) to 11:30 p.m. (CDT)
Location: 125th Fighter Wing
B Company, 153rd Cavalry
8790 Grow Drive
Pensacola, Florida 32514
Registration: Begins at 9:00 a.m. (CDT)

Panama City 
Date: July 3, 2014
Time: 2:00 pm (CDT) to 3:30 p.m. (CDT)
Location: Headquarters 1-153rd Cavalry
3121 North Lisenby Avenue
Panama City, FL 32406
Registration: Begins at 1:00 pm (CDT)

Veterans are strongly encouraged to RSVP online at Recommended attire is business casual. Representatives will be on hand with resources and information to help you connect with your earned benefits, services and employment opportunities. For additional information, visit or email

Additionally, the Florida GI Bill, legislation unanimously passed by the Florida Legislature and signed in to law by Governor Scott earlier this year, took effect yesterday, July 1, 2014. As you may know, through our Work Plan Florida 2014 joint legislative agenda Speaker Weatherford and I proposed the Florida GI Bill in an effort to make Florida the most military-friendly state in our nation. Through this bill, tens of thousands of active duty servicemen and women, military retirees and their families will see expanded education and employment options. Additionally, critical investments will be made to protect our military base missions and strengthen our National Guard Armories. I’ve included a detailed breakdown of the Florida GI Bill below for your reference.

As I reflect on the events surrounding the birth of our nation, it is fitting to pause in remembrance of those who fought for and continue to risk life and limb to protect our country and the freedoms we hold so dear. Making Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation is the least we could do to honor their service and sacrifice. I hope every Florida serviceman, servicewoman, veteran and all of their family members will take full advantage of the benefits of this new law.

Vicky, Matt, Erin and I wish you and yours a joyous Fourth of July as we pray for peace in our world and for the safe return of all serving this great country abroad.


Don Gaetz


Expanding Education and Employment Opportunities 

The GI Bill increases funding for the Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) program to cover career certification and continuing education for maintaining licensure, provides for out-of-state student veterans to receive in-state tuition rates via the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program, and encourages military base commanders and the Commissioner of Education to work together to increase military family student achievement. Specifically, $1.53 million in recurring funding is allocated towards the EDD program to expand education options for National Guard members to include industry certifications and continuing education to maintain license certifications. Preference in the distribution of funds is given to those National Guard members who have deployed on federal military orders. Textbook costs may be reimbursed after tuition has been paid for all eligible members in that year. The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will receive $250,000 in nonrecurring funds for IT upgrades associated with administering and auditing the EDD program.

The GI Bill creates the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program which directs state universities, state colleges, career centers, and technical centers to waive out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans. Tuition and fees charged to an out-of-state student veteran may not exceed the tuition and fees charged to a resident student.

The bill provides legislative intent that the unique needs of military families be met and a framework be established to provide children of military families with a high-quality education. Military installation commanders are encouraged to work with the Commissioner of Education to increase military family student achievement, which may include the establishment of charter schools on military bases.

Florida is for Veterans, Inc. 
Florida is for Veterans, Inc. (FIV) will be administratively housed at the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). The corporation is charged with promoting the value of military skill sets to businesses in the state and assisting in training veterans via the VETS program. FIV will receive $300,000 from Visit Florida for market research on the veteran and military community and advise Visit Florida in the development and implementation of a marketing campaign encouraging veterans and service members to make Florida their permanent residence.

The VETS program, housed at FIV, is a workforce training program that caters to the unique training needs of veterans. This program is structured to serve as a hub where employers can be connected with veterans looking for jobs. Training that is needed to fulfill workforce needs can be funded through the VETS program. The program also provides services, such as resume building and helping veterans translate military training into civilian workforce skills. As part of the VETS program, FIV will contract with one or more university systems to establish entrepreneurial training programs for veterans.

Veteran Preference in Hiring 
The GI Bill expands the employment preference for positions in state, local and regional governmental entities, including the public education system, to all veterans, current members of the Reserves and the Florida National Guard, and the parents and spouses of service members who died in combat. The bill also establishes a permissive preference in private employment which allows businesses to establish hiring policies to give veterans and the spouses of disabled or deceased veterans’ preference.

Driver Licenses and Professional Licenses 
The bill exempts an active duty service member’s spouse and dependents with out-of-state driver licenses who reside with him or her from the requirement to obtain a Florida driver license if the service member’s spouse begins employment in Florida or a dependent enrolls in a Florida public school. The bill also clarifies the spouse and dependent are eligible for an automatic extension without reexamination for a Florida driver license that expires while he or she is stationed outside of Florida. Additionally, the bill waives the initial licensing fees for 60 months for licenses obtained through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Health (DOH) for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses.

Nursing Home Residency, Physician Licensing, and Pharmaceutical Distributor Representatives 
The GI Bill removes the one-year residency requirement to allow veterans, who meet all other requirements for admission and are currently residents of the state, immediate access to vacancies in state nursing homes.

Reciprocity is provided to license health care practitioners in their respective fields if those applicants have received, or will receive, an honorable discharge from service in the U.S. Armed Forces, including Reserve and National Guard components, or the U.S. Public Health Service.

The DOH application process for veteran and active military physicians applying for a temporary certificate for practice in underserved communities is streamlined. DOH must make a determination within ten days of receipt of the application.

The bill adds experience with handling prescription drugs for the U.S. Armed Forces to the list of qualifying experiences to become a certified representative of a wholesale drug distributor.

Investing in Florida’s Military Infrastructure 

Base Buffering 
The bill fully funds the top-tier base buffering needs of our military installations. This includes an appropriation for $7,489,975 to acquire lands around NSA Panama City (8.4 acres), NS Mayport (11 acres), and MacDill AFB (25.5 acres). The purchase of these non-conservation lands secures and protects the military installation against encroachment.

Armory Revitalization
The GI Bill appropriates $12.5 million which covers the next year of funding of the Florida Armory Revitalization Program (FARP). Some of Florida’s armories have not been modernized since the 1960s and funding FARP is critical to the National Guard’s ability to keep armories safe and serviceable.

For more information about this or any other issue, please contact Senator Don Gaetz, by e-mail at, by letter, 4300 Legendary Drive, Suite 230, Destin, FL 32541 or call1-866-450-4DON toll free from anywhere in Florida.

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


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