The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has several license plates that are available to veterans who are disabled. You have probably seen these “Disabled Veteran” license plates on the road, or you might even know someone who has one. There is a problem with these plates, though, one that the veteran community has been trying to solve through legislation for the last few sessions now.
This session, Mr. Randy Kirner, a Vietnam veteran representing Reno in the Nevada Assembly, has introduced Assembly Bill 111. Through this bill, he aims to address the existing problems, and he has received broad support and a positive response from his peers to date.
In order to be eligible for the “Disabled Veteran” license plate, a veteran must prove to the Department of Motor Vehicles that he or she is 100 percent service-connected disabled. Once the disabled veteran has the plate, it allows him or her to park in spaces that are designated for persons who are handicapped. This, and the other privileges that the plates allow, are generous and helpful to those who are disabled and need extra help, but they also pose a problem.
While neighboring states may allow the same parking privileges for disabled veterans as we do in Nevada, they often do not recognize the “Disabled Veterans” plate as legitimate for parking purposed because Nevada’s “Disabled Veteran” plate does not have the wheelchair symbol on it. Veterans have reported getting citations from parking enforcement officials for this reason while traveling out of state for some time now. Some have even stated that they have received citations for packing in spaces designated for persons who are handicapped within Nevada.
Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ provides the options of “Disabled Veteran,” “Disabled Female Veteran,” or “Veteran Who is Disabled,” for veterans of the armed forces of the United States who have “suffered a 100-percent service-connected disability and who receives compensation from the United States for the disability.” Assemblyman Kirner’s bill, if passed, would change this by amending section 482.377 of the Nevada Revised Statutes to read that the plate also would have “the international symbol of access, which must comply with any applicable federal standards and must be white on a blue background.”
This might seem like a small change, but it would have a significant impact on how the current law is carried out. And you can tell how important Assemblyman Kirner’s change would be by the support this bill has received from the statewide veteran population. It has been a legislative priority for several years, which was reiterated by our legislative symposium held in Tonopah last year, and many veterans turn out to support the hearing and work sessions that cover the bill.
One veteran who has really taken the lead on this issue is Caleb Harris from Reno. Though he is a member of several different service organizations, he has led the charge on this bill as the Legislative Officer for Chapter number one of the Disabled American Veterans. Mr. Harris has done a remarkable job of articulating the significance of this bill during this, his first legislative session, and his efforts have kept the discussion focused, respectful, and moving in the right direction. He has been a remarkable advocate, and as mentioned, has received a great deal of support on this bill from the broader veteran community.
Assemblyman Kirner’s AB 111 is one of the first veteran-related bills to be introduced and heard during this legislative session. The idea was developed and prioritized during our Veterans Legislative Symposium in Tonopah last year, and has shown how effective veterans advocacy can be when done in a unified voice. The way this bill is going seems to suggest that this legislative session is going to have some really positive changes with respect to veterans in Nevada.
Caleb S. Cage is the Executive Director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.