Kentucky military veterans will be given preference in hiring for state jobs after Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday signed an executive order to that effect.

They’ll also be spared pauper burials and honored for their sacrifice by bills Beshear ceremoniously signed into law at a ceremony at the Frankfort Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

“In these days of war, it is incumbent on us that we recognize and reward the service and sacrifice of our men and women abroad,” Beshear said in announcing the order.

Since 1970, veterans were given extra points on state employment tests, but most of those tests were eliminated last year when hiring procedures were streamlined. Beshear’s order — if approved by the Personnel Board — will require state government agencies to interview up to five veterans who have applied for a job.

Beshear said veterans’ experience makes them “ideal employment candidates,” and it is “proper to reward those who fight for our freedom.” He said their experience and professionalism of veterans provide benefit to taxpayers.

Beshear also conducted a ceremonious signing of four veterans bills passed in the 2008 regular session of the General Assembly.

Two were sponsored by Rep. Charlie Siler, R-Williamsburg. The Kentucky Stolen Valor Act makes it illegal to use military service or paraphernalia for gain. The Indigent Veterans’ Burial Program establishes a fund to ensure no veteran receives a pauper’s burial.

Siler said two veterans from his district died as paupers and would have received pauper’s burials had it not been for the efforts of the London American Legion Number 88. Siler said the post “made up money on their own to bury the two veterans.”

Siler said as veterans age and many move to nursing homes, more and more face such fates.

“You don’t have to spend much time in a nursing home anymore to become a pauper,” Siler said.

House Bill 65 creates the Kentucky Medal of Freedom for Kentucky soldiers who die in combat and HB 239 creates Gold Star License Plates for spouses of those who died while on military duty. That bill also lowers fees for Purple Heart License Plates.

Beshear presented the first two Gold Start plates to Coneitha Zapfe of Elizabethtown whose husband Sgt. First Class William A. Zapfe died June 19, 2007 in Iraq.

Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, who chairs the House Seniors, Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee, said the four bills “are part of our effort to continuously do more to honor Kentucky’s veterans. The committee members and I are honored to be able to work for veterans.”

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com.



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