Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
September 23, 2003
Linda Spoonster Schwatz, RN, DrPh, FAAN
Department of Veterans' Affairs
287 West Street
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Dear Commissioner Spoonster Schwartz:
Your office has requested a formal opinion regarding whether the Department of Veterans' Affairs (hereinafter "DVA") has properly amended its Veterans' Benefits Guide (hereinafter "Guide") to reflect recent changes in the law. It is the opinion of this office that the proposed changes to the Guide are substantively in compliance with the amended statute.
Public Act No. 03-85 is an important piece of legislation in that it extends eligibility for property tax, education and other war service benefits to veterans of the Persian Gulf War who have served in the military for 90 days or more, without requiring that the veteran serve in a combat or combat support role.1 Prior to the amendment, veterans serving in the armed forces since August 2, 1990 were eligible for benefits only if they served in Somalia, Bosnia, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm during the qualifying time periods under the statute.
Public Acts 2003, No. 03-85, which became effective upon its passage on June 3, 2003, amended the definition of "service in time of war" contained in Connecticut General Statutes § 27-103a. The act incorporates, with some exceptions, the federal definition of the term "period of war" set forth in 38 U.S.C. § 101 (2003). 2By incorporating the federal definition, the act, for purposes of the Persian Gulf War and any future conflicts, affords benefits to all active duty veterans meeting the 90 day service or earlier separation requirements regardless of whether the veterans have served in combat or combat support roles. Therefore, the proposed guidelines need not specifically enumerate the following conflicts or campaigns: Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, Somalia and Bosnia as all military war service subsequent to August 2, 1990 is now covered by the act.
In addition, the Guide should reflect that the act retains existing Vietnam Era dates, February 28, 1961 to July 1, 1975. In accordance with the act, the Guide should also incorporate the following wars and conflicts added by the Legislature and not included in the federal law: Lebanon, September 29, 1982 to March 30, 1984; Grenada, October 25, 1983 to December 15, 1983; Operation Earnest Will, February 1, 1987 to July 23, 1987; and, Panama, December 20, 1989 to January 31, 1990. The Guide should note that these latter campaigns or operations require veterans to have engaged in combat or combat support roles in order to qualify for benefits.3
The amendments to the DVA Benefits Guide substantively comply with current law. The removal from the Benefits Guide of the restriction that certain veterans need to have served in “combat or combat related roles” for the Persian Gulf War also complies with the new law. Once the DVA implements the above suggested revisions to the Guide, the Guide will be in compliance with the requirements of Connecticut General Statutes § 27-103a, as amended.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General
1Also covered under the act are veterans who have been separated from service earlier than 90 days because of a service-connected disability and veterans who served an entire war, campaign or operation lasting less than 90 days. It also covers persons who may be involved in any future military conflict.
2The term "period of war" is defined in 38 U.S.C. section 101 (11) as "the Spanish-American War, the Mexican border period, World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam era, the Persian Gulf War, and the period beginning on the date of any future declaration of war by the Congress and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or concurrent resolution of the Congress."
3The terms "combat" or "combat support role" are not defined in the General Statutes of Connecticut. Accordingly, the Commissioner would have discretion in interpreting the above terms in determining eligibility for benefits that fall within the jurisdiction of the DVA.