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Title 25 - Military, Civil Defense and Veterans Affairs
DIVISION OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS
Division of Veterans' Affairs created; supervising panel.
A Division of Veterans' Affairs in the Office of the Governor is hereby created for the purpose of assisting ex-servicemen in securing the benefits to which they are entitled under the provisions of federal legislation and under the terms of insurance policies issued by the federal government for their benefit. This division shall be under the direct supervision of a panel consisting of the Governor as chairman, the Attorney General for the purpose of giving legal advice, and the Adjutant and Inspector General.
Director of Division of Veterans' Affairs.
For the purpose of carrying on this work the Governor shall appoint a Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs, who is charged with the duty of assisting all ex-servicemen, regardless of the wars in which their service may have been rendered, in filing, presenting, and prosecuting to final determination all claims which they have for money compensation, hospitalization, training, and insurance benefits under the terms of federal legislation. The Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs must be a person versed in federal legislation relating to these matters and the rules, regulations, and practice of the Veterans Administration as created by Congress and must be appointed by the Governor. Before the appointment, the Governor shall receive a recommendation from (1) the executive committee of the American Legion, Department of South Carolina, (2) the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Department of South Carolina, and (3) the Disabled American Veterans. The Governor is not required to appoint the person recommended and he is subject to removal by the Governor pursuant to the provisions of Section 1-3-240(B).
Location of office.
The office of the division herein provided for shall be located in Columbia in space provided by the State Budget and Control Board.
County veterans affairs officers; appointment and removal; training and accreditation.
(A) For the purpose of this section, "veteran" means a person who served on active duty for a period of more than one hundred eighty days and was discharged or released from such active duty with an honorable discharge or, if one hundred eighty days or less, was discharged or released from service active duty because of service-connected disability.
(B) Subject to the recommendation of a majority of the Senators representing the county and a majority of the House members representing the county, the Director of the Division of Veterans Affairs shall appoint a county veterans affairs officer for each county in the State, whose term of office shall begin July first of each odd-numbered year and shall continue for a term of two years and until a successor shall be appointed. A county veterans affairs officer must be a qualified veteran who served on active duty for a period of more than one hundred eighty days and was discharged or released from such active duty with an honorable discharge or, if one hundred eighty days or less, was discharged or released from such active duty because of a service-connected disability; otherwise, a county veterans affairs officer may be a qualified nonveteran, if any veteran being considered for the post is not as qualified as a nonveteran being considered for the post. Qualifications shall be determined by the county legislative delegation upon a majority vote of the Senators representing the county and a majority of the House members representing the county. A county veterans affairs officer is subject to removal for cause at any time by a majority of the Senators representing the county and a majority of the House members representing the county.
(C) All county veterans affairs officers must successfully complete a comprehensive course of training and be issued accreditation within one year following initial appointment, either through the Division of Veterans Affairs or through an accredited national veterans service organization. A training council from the South Carolina Association of County Veterans Affairs Officers, in conjunction with the Division of Veterans Affairs or through an accredited national veterans service organization, shall develop the training criteria. Training and accreditation must be provided by the Division of Veterans Affairs or through an accredited national veterans service organization. A county veterans affairs officer who does not complete the required training and receives accreditation within the first year following appointment is ineligible for reappointment by the county legislative delegation. Additionally, in order to maintain accreditation, refresher training is required yearly.
(D)(1) In Berkeley County, appointments made pursuant to this section are governed by the provisions of Act 159 of 1995.
(2) In Dorchester County, appointments made pursuant to this section are governed by the provisions of Act 512 of 1996.
(3) In Georgetown County, appointments made pursuant to this section are governed by the provisions of Act 515 of 1996.
Relations of Director of Division of Veterans' Affairs and county veterans affairs officers.
The Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs shall establish uniform methods and procedure for the performance of service work among the several county officers, maintain contact and close cooperation with such officers, and provide assistance, advice and instructions with respect to changes in law and regulations and administrative procedure in relation to the application of such laws and he may require from time to time reports from such county veterans affairs officers, reflecting the character and progress of their official duties.
The county veterans affairs officers shall render semiannually a complete report of their acts and doings to the county legislative delegation of their respective counties upon uniform forms to be furnished by the Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs.
Duties of Division in connection with Agent Orange Information and Assistance Program; suit for release of information.
The Division of Veterans' Affairs shall assist the South Carolina Agent Orange Advisory Council and the Agent Orange Information and Assistance Program at the Division of Health and Environmental Control in carrying out the purposes of Chapter 40 of Title 44. The Division of Veterans' Affairs shall:
(1) refer veterans to appropriate state and federal agencies or other available resources for treatment of adverse health conditions which may have resulted from possible exposure to chemical agents, including Agent Orange;
(2) assist veterans in filing compensation claims for disabilities that may have resulted from possible exposure to chemical agents, including Agent Orange;
(3) communicate the concerns of veterans related to exposure to chemical agents, including Agent Orange, to appropriate state and federal officials.
The division may request that the Attorney General represent a class of individuals composed of veterans who may have suffered adverse health conditions as a result of possible exposure to chemical agents, including Agent Orange, in a suit for release of information relating to the exposure to these chemicals during military service and for release of individual medical records.
State veterans' cemeteries.
(A) In this section:
(1) "state veterans' cemetery" means a cemetery that the Division of Veterans Affairs establishes under this section; and
(2) "immediate family" means those family members who are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery.
(B) The division may establish one or more cemeteries in the State for the burial of veterans and their immediate families.
(C) The division may accept land, in the name of the State, or otherwise acquire land for a state veterans' cemetery, if the division has the approval of:
(1) the governing body of the county where the state veterans' cemetery is to be located;
(2) the delegation in the General Assembly for the county where the state veterans' cemetery is to be located; and
(3) the Budget and Control Board.
(D) The division shall maintain and supervise each state veterans' cemetery.
(E)(1) Subject to the limitations in this section, the division shall provide a plot in a state veterans' cemetery, without charge, to an applicant who meets the requirements of this section.
(2) In the order in which the division receives the applications for plots, the division shall allot a plot in the state veterans' cemetery that is closest to the residence of the veteran and has an available plot.
(F)(1) To qualify for a plot in a state veterans' cemetery, the applicant must be a veteran or a member of the immediate family of a veteran who meets the requirements of this subsection.
(2) The veteran must have an honorable discharge from the Armed Forces.
(3) The veteran must have been a resident of the State:
(a) when the veteran entered the Armed Forces;
(b) when the veteran died; or
(c) for twenty years, unless for a reason that the division finds compelling, the division waives the time period.
(G) To obtain a plot in a state veterans' cemetery, an applicant shall submit to the division an application on the form that the division provides.
(H) In a plot that is allotted to a veteran, the division shall bury:
(1) the veteran; and
(2) any member of the immediate family of the veteran if the family member can be buried in a space above or below the veteran.
(I)(1) The division shall bury the veteran without charge.
(2) For burial of a member of the immediate family, the division may:
(a) set a fee that does not exceed the cost of burial; or
(b) accept, from the social security burial allowance, an amount that does not exceed the cost of the burial.
(J) The division shall keep a registry of the graves of veterans who are buried in the state veterans' cemeteries.