The Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations says its legislative wish list is short this year. Rich Heigert is the legislative chairman for the association. He says getting funding last year was a big success for veterans, and the group will be watching to make sure the funding stays in place. One dollar from admissions fees to gaming boats in Missouri goes to the Veterans Commission for veterans homes. Heigert says the state only pays about a third of the cost to run them, the other portion is paid by the veterans themselves and the federal Veterans Administration.

Heigert says the association will continue to search for ways to establish an enforceable Veterans Employment program. Bills to do that in the past have failed to make it through the legislative process.

For instance, it’s already statute that veterans who drive big rigs in the military can qualify for a civilian commercial drivers license in Missouri. Heigert says that same principle should apply to those with paramedic training or heavy equipment operators. He says it makes sense that veterans should be able to use their military skills in the civilian work force, without having to earn certification or degrees for skills they’ve already mastered while in the service.

Another legislative priority is to establish veterans treatment courts throughout the state, so that veterans with addiction problems can get the help they need to recover rather than go through the criminal system. Heigert says treatment courts have proven to be effective in several Missouri counties already, and the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations would like to see the program be statewide.

Heigert says another low-cost measure would be to let veterans know where they can receive care. He says many of them don’t know where VA facilities are. VA Community -based outpatient clinics are located throughout the state, but Heigert says many veterans simply don’t know where they are. The organization’s membership wants to work with lawmakers and the Missouri Department of Transportation to create road signs indicating where those facilities are.

Other legislative goals include creating a “Woman Veteran” license plate, working with the Missouri Veterans Commission to develop a long-range plan to meet the changing needs for veterans in Missouri, and offering interest-free small business loans for newly returned military veterans and provide assistance for small business owners who are veterans.

Heigert says the organization will watch and wait to see if any other veterans issues arise in this year’s session, and will look at legislation closely to see if the group wants to support or oppose those issues.

He says the group has not taken a stance on any gun bills already filed this year, but has backed measures in the past that would expand the state’s conceal carry law to include all law abiding veterans, exempting them from the classroom certification process. Such an initative has not been passed into law … members of the military must complete the same amount of classroom work and field training as anyone else to receive a conceal carry permit.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:21)