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Raimondo Signs Bills to Expand Opportunity for Veterans

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by Representative Jan P. Malik, Senator Walter S. Felag, Jr., Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn, and Brigadier General Christopher Callahan, Adjutant General of the state of Rhode Island, today ceremonially signed several new bills to strengthen the state's commitment to veterans and their families. The diverse laws include measures that make it easier for businesses to hire veterans, protect reservists from discrimination related to their military service, honor the fallen at the veterans cemetery, and allow veterans to receive their medical records at no cost when applying for benefits.

"One of my administration's top priorities is expanding opportunity so veterans have a chance to make it in Rhode Island," Raimondo said. "I want to thank our partners in the General Assembly for passing these bills that ensure a successful transition back to civilian life when our servicemembers return home and for honoring their service to our nation."

Since taking office, Raimondo has worked tirelessly to elevate the issues veterans and their families face. In addition to supporting the bills signed today, she has appointed the state's first Director of Veterans Affairs, improved outreach and access to services by hiring needed staff, and ensured that our state has a new veterans home worthy of their sacrifice.

Representative Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67, Warren, Barrington) was the lead sponsor of these bills in the House of Representatives and serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

"The veterans and members of the National Guard of Rhode Island have risked so much while ensuring our American way of life can continue and with these risks comes problems and repercussions for our veterans when they return home from battle," Malik said. "We as citizens should be thanking our veterans in every way possible for their dedication to our country and this legislative package demonstrates that we value and respect the price our soldiers have paid while they sacrificed for the good of our country."

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans' Affairs, Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), sponsored four of the bills ceremonially signed today.

"Our society's debt can never be fully repaid to our veterans and National Guard members but these pieces of legislation are a small way to thank them for their service to us all," Felag said. "These brave and selfless soldiers serve our country by leaving their domestic lives behind to answer the call to service when needed and it is our duty to recognize and honor their sacrifices so the American people are able to live a life of freedom and prosperity."

The state's first Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn also attended the bill signing. Recently retired from the U.S. Navy after a 24-year career, he understands the issues that many of our veterans face as they transition into civilian life.

"Governor Raimondo and I are committed to making government work better for veterans and be worthy of their sacrifice," Yarn said. "These bills address a lot of the concerns I've heard during my tour of the Ocean State and I want to thank the Governor and the General Assembly for their unwavering support of those who've worn the uniform."

Raimondo was also joined by Brigadier General Christopher Callahan, Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Rhode Island National Guard.

"On behalf of the men and women of the Rhode Island National Guard, who have served our nation and state with distinction, I am honored to participate in a process that continues to validate their service and the sacrifice of their families," Callahan said. "Today marks the culmination of work by a great team committed to our state's veterans."

The bills signed into law include:

Prohibits recreational dog walking in Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery

Bills: H7441A, S2567A

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Felag

Allows private employers to adopt an employment policy that provides a preference in hiring or promotion, or both, to a veteran

Bills: H8036, S2886

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Felag

Protects the jobs of Rhode Island employees serving in National Guard units in Rhode Island or any other state

Bills: H8037A, S2888aa

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Faleg

Requires health care providers to provide veterans copies of their medical records at no charge if the records are used to apply for benefits of any kind

Bills: H8319, S2296A

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Nesselbush

Changes the name of the Central Bridge in the town of Barrington to the "Barrington Veterans' Memorial Bridge"

Bills: H7120, S2073

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Coyne

Corrects the law reflecting the dedicated space for veterans' organizations to the William F. Powers Building and updates the list of chartered veterans' organizations who can use the space

Bills: H8184, S2905A

Sponsors: Representative Malik, Senator Felag

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