New law creates volunteer guardians for incapacitated veterans

Sen. Paul Rosino

ENID, Okla. — A new law went into effect last week allowing for court-appointed volunteers to serve as guardians for disabled veterans in managing their finances.

Senate Bill 931, which creates the Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act, was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, a retired Navy master chief petty officer with 25 years of service, according to his Senate webpage.

SB 931 allows for volunteer guardians to be appointed by Oklahoma courts to represent veterans who are incapacitated or partially incapacitated to act as fiduciaries for their financial affairs.

"Many of Oklahoma’s disabled veterans do not have anyone to help them make critical decisions concerning their finances, health and other personal affairs," according to an Oklahoma Senate press release. "Now these heroes will have court-appointed, trained volunteers available to assist them thanks to legislation signed into law Thursday."

“Sadly, many of Oklahoma’s disabled heroes are falling victim to financial scams or are making dangerous health decisions because they don’t have anyone to depend on for help,” said Rosino in the press release. “This program will provide trained volunteers who will be appointed by the courts to meet the special needs of each veteran."

Under the new law, veteran-specific guardians will be appointed under the existing provisions of the Oklahoma Guardianship and Conservatorship Act. Guardianships may be general or limited to the specific needs of the veteran. Each guardian will be required to have a bond if managing a veteran’s property.

The measure was requested by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to meet the needs of incapacitated veterans. According to the Oklahoma Senate press release, approximately 10 percent of Oklahoma’s fully or partially incapacitated veterans do not have family members or friends to serve as their guardians.

“With passage of Senate Bill 931, we now have a tool to help the neediest 10 percent of Oklahoma veterans,” said Joel Kintsel, ODVA deputy director. “Senator Rosino’s bill opens the way to better health care and life decisions for veterans who have no one else to help them.”

The new law applies to disabled veterans both inside and out of the state’s seven veterans centers.

Craig Vance, a chapter service officer at Northwest Oklahoma Disabled American Veterans in Enid and former DAV Oklahoma state commander, said he's cautiously optimistic about the Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act.

"I'm for anything that makes it easier for veterans to live their lives as normal as possible," Vance said, "and sometimes that requires that other person to manage the purse strings."

The Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act was passed under an emergency provision, and went into effect when it was signed last Thursday.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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