Sink unveils push to connect vets with benefits
CFO Alex Sink, targeting a voter demographic that she'll no doubt need in her Democratic bid to become Florida's next governor, this morning unveiled an initiative aimed at ensuring that the state's 1.7 million veterans tap into all the benefits available to them.
"Florida Vets Connect" is an effort between Sink's Department of Financial Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Starting in July, when veterans go to renew or apply for a first-time Florida driver's license or ID, they will be asked to check a box indicating they served in the military.
The DHSMV will use the information to build a more comprehensive database of veterans' names and addresses, which the VA department will use to send out benefits information. According to the VA's 2009 report on benefits, Florida has 1.7 million veterans, yet the VA only has accurate contact information for about 700,000 of them.
It's estimated that nationwide, more than $22 billion in veterans' pension benefits go unclaimed each year -- including about $1 billion in Florida.
"This is the perfect example of how we can work together across departments to get more done, and at no extra cost to taxpayers," said Sink, whose father served as a Marine in WWII. "These brave men and women deserve our respect and gratitude, and they deserve to know about all the benefits they can access. We need to take care of them when they come home."