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New bill to improve lives of veterans in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- There are 770,000 veterans living in North Carolina, and Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory finalized the latest step in improving the way they get their care.

McCrory signed Senate Bill 105 into effect, which will add space on income tax forms so people can voluntarily indicate if they or their spouse are a veteran. This will allow the Department of Revenue to annually report the number of veterans filing tax returns to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. In turn, the state will get a better idea of how veterans and their families are living in North Carolina and what services and resources they need.

“The American Legion’s always in favor of anything that helps take care of veterans and veterans’ families,” said Jeremy Knapp, American Legion Post 55 finance officer. “We want to make sure that veterans and veterans’ families have the option to opt in or out based on their privacy concerns.”

Knapp, who enlisted in the United States Navy before he turned 20, has been dealing with the VA for more than half his life.

“I’ve been in the VA system for 20 years now and here in the last two years I’ve seen a large difference in my input on what my care should be,” he said.

The bill is in line with what FOX8 heard from the VA's Winston-Salem Regional Office. They say the VA is moving away from the rules-based way things have been done in the past and toward a system which allows veterans to weigh in on what care they need and when they need it.

“There’s a lot more programs coming up that I get prompted to every time I go to the VA, which is a stark contrast to what it was when I first got out of the military,” Knapp said.

Although there have been improvements, VA officials have admitted that more changes are needed.

“If the system would speak more at the level of the people given the care, and maybe less from a cubicle, that would probably help,” Knapp said.

"This bill is about making sure we are doing everything we can at the state level to support military members, veterans and their families," McCrory said. "Allowing people to voluntarily indicate if they are a veteran can help us better serve those who have fought to defend our state and nation."