(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Gordon Johnson, Bruce R. Land, Bob Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson, Patricia Jones, Raj Mukherji and Joseph Danielsen to provide mental health services and other resources to Gold Star families were advanced Thursday by the Senate budget panel.
The bills were approved by the Assembly in February.
The term "Gold Star" describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service. A Gold Star Family member is defined to mean a spouse, domestic partner, partner in a civil union, parent, brother, sister, child, legal guardian, or other legal custodian.
The first bill (A-4399), sponsored by Greenwald, Johnson, Andrzejczak, Jones, Mazzeo, Houghtaling and Mukherji would establish the “Gold Star Family Counseling Program” in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to help provide Gold Star family members with mental health care.
The Gold Star Family Counseling Program would recruit health care professionals to provide mental health counseling to Gold Star family members free of charge. Specifically, the DMVA is directed to recruit psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, social workers, and family counselors to provide counseling to Gold Star family members. In exchange for the counseling, the mental health care professionals could receive an annual tax credit equal to the compensation foregone for a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 40 hours of donated counseling time each year.
The second bill (A-4401), sponsored by Greenwald, Land, Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Houghtaling, Benson and Danielsen, would authorize the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission to approve and issue a driver’s license and an identification card with a Gold Star Family designation for certain family members of servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives while on active duty.
Under the bill, the holder of a driver’s license or identification card with a Gold Star Family designation would be eligible for certain benefits, including:
- Free or reduced price admission to New Jersey beaches;
- Free admission to State parks and forests;
- Free admission to the New Jersey State Museum;
- Waiver of license fees charged by several professional and occupational licensing boards in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety; and
- Admission into homes, institutions, and hospitals administered by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).