DeSantis signs two bills in Pasco County to expand veteran programs, benefits

Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills in Pasco County on Thursday, expanding programs and benefits for veterans

Starting July 1, House Bill 725 will allow eligible spouses and surviving spouses of qualifying veterans to live at state veterans’ long-term care facilities. 

"First of all, it’s just the right thing to do. When you have a surviving veteran and a spouse, we want to keep them together," DeSantis said during Thursday’s news conference at Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home. "But even when the veteran unfortunately passes on, we recognize that that spouse has also served and that spouse deserves our support as well." 

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Vietnam veteran Ken Sizemore, 88, lives at Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home. For the last two years, he’s lived separately from his wife, Josephine, who has dementia and is not a veteran. 

"It’s hard to be apart from her," an emotional Sizemore said when describing his wife of 61 years.

"Even when we bring Mom to visit, that’s good but then bittersweet, because they have to say goodbye," Sizemore’s daughter, Jenny Stentiford, said. 

Under this new law, Stentiford said her family will get the process started, and hopefully, her parents will be living together at Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home within a month. 

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"I think we’re just overwhelmed that this is actually happening," Stentiford said. "We didn’t ever think something like this would happen."

DeSantis also signed House Bill 1329, which expands other benefits for veterans, including free hunting and fishing licenses for qualifying disabled veterans, the creation of the Major John Leroy Haynes Florida Veterans’ History Program to record veterans’ stories, and mandatory public school instruction on the history and importance of Veterans Day and Memorial Day. 


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