Veterans and the Military

Citizens Count Editor

If you have served in the U.S. military, you are entitled to benefits at both the state and federal level.  State benefits generally fall under the umbrella of the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services, although there are many other state agencies that provide services to veterans.  Federal benefits fall under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  This article focuses on benefits for veterans provided by the state of New Hampshire.

Click here to see a guide to veterans services in New Hampshire, published by the Department of Health and Human Services

State agencies handling veterans’ services

The New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services—part of the Department of Health and Human Services—is the primary state organization responsible for assisting veterans in securing state and federal benefits. 

There are other offices, agencies, and commissions that deal with veterans affairs in New Hampshire, however.  For example, the Department of the Adjutant General—the head of the New Hampshire National Guard—oversees the State Veterans Cemetery.  The Bureau of Community Based Military Programs focuses on projects and partnerships that support services for veterans from civilian health care providers.

In 2017 Rep. Russell Ober sponsored a bill to create a Department of Military and Veterans Services in New Hampshire. The House ultimately killed Rep. Ober’s bill.

In response, Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order directing the Office of Veterans Services, the Bureau of Community Based Military Programs, and the Adjutant General to coordinate services to ensure that veterans have a single point of contact with the state.

Veterans Track in NH courts

There are six “Veterans Tracks” —also called veterans courts—in New Hampshire.  These tracks allow veterans with illnesses (such as PTSD or substance abuse disorder) to complete court-monitored treatment and services rather than go through the regular court process.  If a veteran meets court requirements, he or she may have criminal charges dismissed or annulled.  New Hampshire does not provide special funding for the Veterans Tracks; the federal government and various nonprofits provide grants for veterans’ courts.

NH Veterans Home

The New Hampshire Veterans Home is a long-term care facility for aging veterans who have lived at least one year in New Hampshire and have assets under $275,000.  The home has a capacity of 250 residents.  Residents must pay room and board charges, which vary depending on a veteran’s assets.  Those charges provide about $9 million in annual funding for the New Hampshire Veterans Home.  The federal government provides about $10 million in annual funding, and New Hampshire provides about $17 million from the general fund of all tax dollars.

Click here to learn more about the NH Veterans Home. 

NH Veterans Cemetery

In 1997 New Hampshire opened a veterans cemetery in Boscawen.  Veterans and their dependents may be interred at the cemetery.  The cemetery makes about $100,000 in annual fees.  The federal government provides about $400,000 a year, and the state provides about $350,000 from the general fund of all state tax dollars.

Click here to learn more about the NH Veterans Cemetery. 

Veteran property tax credits

Towns in New Hampshire can adopt a local property tax credit up to $500 for honorably discharged veterans. That credit rises to up to $750 beginning January 2019.  Totally and permanently disabled veterans may be eligible for a property tax credit up to $2,000 or exempt from property taxes altogether.  The spouse of a veteran killed in active duty may also be eligible for a property tax credit up to $2,000. In January 2019, that tax credit will increase to up to $4,000.

The New Hampshire Legislature has considered various bills to increase the maximum tax credit towns may adopt for veterans or to increase eligibility.  The most recent increase occurred in 2016, when the Legislature extended the tax credit to all honorably discharged veterans, not just those who served in certain conflicts.

Click here to learn more about the tax credits available to veterans in your town.

Employment preference for veterans

State law only allows the government to give preference to hiring a veteran if candidates for a job are otherwise equally qualified.  The Legislature has considered several bills to change this law and allow a stronger preference for hiring veterans, though no such bill has passed. 

Private employers in New Hampshire may establish a preference for hiring veterans if they so choose.

License fees, veterans plates, and other state benefits

New Hampshire provides active duty and retired service members with many smaller benefits.  For example, veterans with a service-connected disability can get free admission to state parks.  Some patients at the Manchester VA Medical Center are eligible for free fishing licenses.  Veterans are also eligible for special license plates and a veterans’ designation on their drivers licenses.

Contact the NH Office of Veterans Services for more information on state benefits for veterans.

Manchester VA Medical Center

The federal government is responsible for providing free health care to veterans.  However, New Hampshire is the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital.  Instead, a VA Medical Center in Manchester provides New Hampshire veterans with many hospital services, such as radiology and physical therapy.  Veterans who require more serious in-patient treatment or specialist care are referred to other health care providers.

In recent years whistleblowing employees revealed several problems at the Manchester VA Medical Center, from a fly-infested operating room to an abnormally high number of veterans with preventable spinal conditions.  In July 2017 VA Secretary David Shulkin removed some of the leaders at the Manchester VA, pledged more funding, and launched an investigation.

In addition to problems with the quality of treatment, in August 2017 the Medical Center building was damaged by a burst pipe.  In December 2017 there was a bedbug infestation.  In response, the Legislature passed a bill that allows VA doctors to provide services to Manchester VA Medical Center patients at other medical facilities.  

While state officials have expressed concern about the VA health care for New Hampshire veterans, the Manchester VA Medical Center is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government, and there are no proposals to offer health care to veterans through the state.

The federal government also offers the Veterans Choice program, which pays for veterans to get health care from community providers rather than VA doctors.  The Veterans Choice program has faced criticism for excessively long appointment wait times, however.

Nonprofits for veterans

While this article focuses on state government services for veterans, there are private nonprofits in New Hampshire that also provide services for veterans.  For example, Liberty House provides transitional housing for homeless veterans in Manchester, without any state or federal funding. In 2014 Liberty House reported roughly $250,000 in expenses to the IRS.

Easterseals Military and Veterans Services also provides resources and services to New Hampshire veterans, including financial assistance through the Veterans Count program.  Easterseals does receive some funding from the state through grants.  Easterseals provided roughly $425,000 in direct assistance to veterans in 2014, according to the IRS.

As a point of comparison, the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services had a budget of roughly $500,000 in 2014.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“NH should do more to help returning veterans.”

  • According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 10% of New Hampshire adults are veterans.  That is higher than the national average of 7%. New Hampshire therefore has a larger obligation than other states to help veterans.
  • According to data from the 2016 American Community Survey, veterans across the U.S. have a lower unemployment rate than non-veterans.  In New Hampshire, however, veterans and non-veterans have about the same unemployment rate.  This suggests that New Hampshire could do more to help veterans find employment. 
  • Bringing veterans’ services under a single department would make it easier for veterans to receive coordinated, quality services if all of those services were managed centrally.
  • There are many examples of policies in other states that New Hampshire could adopt to help veterans.  For example, Louisiana includes veterans as a specific class protected under the state’s anti-discrimination law.  Other states, such as Illinois, create unique license plates for female veterans, and use proceeds from the plates to fund services specific to female veterans.  Over the years states have also offered various grants and tax credits to employers that hire veterans.
  • As the only state without a full-service veterans hospital, New Hampshire has a special duty to ensure the state is doing everything it can to help protect veterans’ health and rights.  The problems at the Manchester VA Medical Center emphasize that the federal government cannot be trusted to take care of veterans’ needs.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“NH is already doing enough to help returning veterans.”

  • Veterans in New Hampshire are better off than non-veterans in many ways.  For example, according to data from the American Community Survey, in 2016 New Hampshire veterans had an annual median income of over $40,000.  Non-veterans in New Hampshire had an annual median income of roughly $32,000.  Similarly, only 5% of veterans were below the poverty level, compared to 8% of non-veterans in New Hampshire.  This suggests that veterans are less in need of state services than other populations.
  • Rather than spend money on reorganizing veterans’ services into a new department, the state should spend money directly on expanded services. 
  • According the 2017 report “The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire,” published by the NH Coalition to End Homelessness, veteran homelessness has decreased over the past few years in New Hampshire. 
  • Compared to the rest of the U.S., veterans in New Hampshire fair better than veterans in other states.  For example, according to the 2016 American Community Survey, the unemployment rate of New Hampshire veterans was 5%, compared to the national average of 6%.  Similarly, 5% of New Hampshire veterans were below the poverty level, compared to 7% of veterans nationally. 
  • If New Hampshire further expands veteran property tax credits, it could have a significant negative impact on tax revenue at the state and/or local level, since property taxes are the primary source of revenue in New Hampshire, and roughly one-tenth of New Hampshire adults are veterans.  Any further increase in veteran tax credits would result in an unjustified increase in the tax burden for non-veterans.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Signed by Governor

Allows an honorably discharged veteran who is at least 80% disabled to purchase a lifetime hunting, fishing, or trapping license at a discount. At the time of this bill's submission, a veteran must be completely disabled to qualify.

Signed by Governor

Allows an honorably discharged veteran who is completely disabled to purchase a lifetime bow and arrow license for $10. At the time of this bill's submission, a completely disabled veteran is eligible for a lifetime fishing, hunting, or trapping license.

Signed by Governor

Establishes a commission to study the New Hampshire veterans cemetery.

Interim Study

Requires a public employer who does not appoint a veteran or disabled veteran to a position to provide information on other public employment positions for which the veteran or disabled veteran may be qualified.

Signed by Governor

Allows towns to adopt up to a $500 annual property tax credit for members of the New Hampshire national guard and armed forces reserves engaged in combat service.

Signed by Governor

Increases the maximum property tax credit towns may adopt for veterans, from $500 to $1,000.​ The Senate amended the bill to increase the credit to just $750.

Signed by Governor

Allows cities and towns to adopt a property tax exemption for totally and permanently disabled veterans. The Senate amended the bill to instead increase the optional local tax credit for service-connected total disability from $2,000 to $4,000.

Killed in the House

Adopts the national Honor and Remember Flag as the official symbol of the state of New Hampshire to recognize and honor fallen members of the armed forces.

Signed by Governor

Suspends license requirements for physicians, nurses and physician assistants offering medical services to patients of the Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) at licensed medical facilities outside of the Manchester VAMC, provided they are licensed in another state or country and are certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Signed by Governor

Establishes a commission to review and evaluate workforce and job training programs in New Hampshire.

Died in Conference Committee

Requires the National Guard to permit members of the guard to carry concealed weapons at national guard facilities. The House amended the bill completely to instead suspend state licensing laws for physicians and physician assistants employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the Manchester VA Medical Center.

Signed by Governor

Suspends license requirements for physicians, nurses and physician assistants offering medical services to patients of the Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) at licensed medical facilities outside of the Manchester VAMC, provided they are licensed in another state or country and are certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Killed in the House

Requires the Adjutant General's Department to include at least $25,000 for the New Hampshire National Guard Scholarship (NHNGS) Fund in the Department's budget request each year. The House amended the bill to instead appropriate $25,000 each year, regardless of a request.

Signed by Governor

Permits courts to establish veterans' tracks for veterans and members of the military who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The House amended the bill to also require a person sentenced by a mental health court to wait one year after completing all programs before filing a petition for annulment. The current period is six months.

Killed in the House

Names a bridge in Keene the Veterans Memorial Pedestrian Bridge.

Signed by Governor

Allows a veteran who has a disability related to his or her service to select which special license plate he or she is eligible for without having to pay registration and number plate fees.

Signed by Governor

Authorizes the state veterans' advisory committee to accept gifts, grants, and donations for payment of the committee's costs. The bill was amended to also require a student's consent to include statewide assessment results in his or her transcripts. Another amendment changes the statewide assessment schedule, so that schools must only administer statewide assessments once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school, with a locally chosen assessment in other years.

Signed by Governor

Allows Purple Heart number plates to be furnished without charge.

Signed by Governor

Allows a town or city adopting the all veterans' tax credit against property taxes to phase in the amount over 3 years. The Senate amended the bill to also modify the deadline for applications for recovery from the FRM victims' contribution recovery fund.

Signed by Governor

Expands the allowable use of National Guard scholarships to include fees, books, and non-credit professional development programs.

Signed by Governor

Increases the threshold above which merchants can sell gift cards with expiration dates from $100 to $250, revises the definition of gift certificate by removing the requirement that it be in writing, and provides that gift certificates of $250 or less shall not be considered abandoned property.

Killed in the House

Allows towns and cities to double the optional veterans' tax credit against property taxes.

Interim Study

Establishes a state Department of Veterans Affairs to direct veterans to appropriate benefits and services.

Killed in the Senate

Allows special license plates for veterans and armed forces members to be used on "any motor vehicle, trailer, or other vehicle." The House amended the bill to only extend veterans plates to trailers.

Signed by Governor

Changes the membership of the post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury commission.

Signed by Governor

Includes active service National Guard members in the definition of absent uniformed services voters.

Signed by Governor

Permits high school students who are members of the armed forces to wear their uniforms at graduation.

Killed in the House

Allows town and cities to adopt an additional exemption from property taxes for certain totally and permanently disabled veterans.

Signed by Governor

Permits, with the approval of the school board or by an approved warrant article at the annual school district meeting, the placement of a memorial on school property to honor alumni who have died honorably during active duty.

Tabled in the House

Allows towns and cities to increase the optional tax credit for service-connected disability to 100% of the property tax.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study if current force protection measures provide adequate safeguards for New Hampshire national guard personnel, facilities, and equipment.

Killed in the Senate

Permits members of the guard to carry concealed weapons at National Guard facilities.

Tabled in the Senate

Allows a veteran with a disability rating of at least 60 percent from the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs to receive a special hunting and fishing license.

Interim Study

Allows for voluntary donations to veterans' organizations through a check-off box on driver's license applications and automobile registration forms.

Tabled in the House

Requests that the federal government investigate whether benzodiazepines contribute to a higher rate of suicides by veterans.

Killed in the House

Increases the maximum amount of the optional veterans' property tax credit.

Signed by Governor

Exempts the planning and construction of an addition to the administration building at the state veterans cemetery from state requirements for capital projects.

Signed by Governor

Authorizes various multi-use decal number plates, including multi-use veterans decal number plates. This bill also makes charging unreasonable fees for assistance in procuring aid or services from public veterans' agencies an unfair trade practice.

Killed in the House

Allows a person who is eligible for a special number plate for disabled veterans to be issued an additional special number plate for a motorcycle.

Signed by Governor

Allows private employers to establish a policy giving preference to veterans in employment decisions.

Interim Study

Prohibits a business from charging veterans an unreasonable fee for services and makes such conduct a violation of the consumer protection act.

Tabled in the House

Establishes a committee to study medical services provided to residents of the New Hampshire veterans’ home.

Killed in the House

Allows municipalities to extend the veterans property tax credit to residents who served for a period determined by the city or town of at least one year active duty in the armed forces, and to their surviving spouses. The bill also allows for a different tax credit amount to be applied for such veterans.

Law Without Signature

Increases the membership of the board of managers of the New Hampshire veterans’ home, requires the board to meet quarterly, and deletes compensation for the secretary of the board.  The bill was amended to also provide for a consolidated reporting process for departments and extend the commission to study mental health implementation in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Requires the governor to appoint a veterans’ ombudsman.

Signed by Governor

Enables towns and cities to adopt an additional veterans’ property tax credit for all honorably discharged veterans

Killed in the House

Limits the appointment of the commandant of the veterans’ home to a 3-year renewable term and requires the commandant to be a veteran unless the board of managers votes otherwise.

Should NH do more to help returning veterans?

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Issue Status

The NH State Veterans Cemetery will receive $2.5 million in additional federal grant funding. The money will allow the cemetery to expand burial options for veterans and make some needed improvements to infrastructure. 

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