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Gov. DeSantis Signs Two Bills At USF Supporting Veterans

By News Service of Florida, Carrie Pinkard and Adam Bakst

Governor DeSantis said in Tampa Wednesday that he wants Florida to be the number one state for veterans.

He then promptly signed legislation that would help with that goal.

At an event at the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Success, DeSantis signed a pair of bills that drew unanimous support from both the House and Senate during this year’s legislative session.

House Bill 501 allows the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to contract with a state university or Florida College System institution to provide the following alternative treatment options: accelerated resolution therapy; equine therapy; hyperbaric oxygen therapy; music therapy; and service animal training therapy.

DeSantis, who served in the Navy, said he’s long supported alternative-treatment concepts, such as training dogs to work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veteran Green Beret Brian Anderson's service dog, Hero, poses at the bill-signing at the University of South Florida.
Credit Carrie Pinkard / WUSF Public Media

DeSantis said he pushed for alternative treatments while serving in Congress.

“The people that would go in the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), literally it would be they would get counseling and they would get prescription medication,” DeSantis said. “So we had veterans that commit suicide on the back end of that. I spoke with family members, and they really believed that was not the proper treatment.”

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, was pushed by Danny Burgess, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs who is a former legislator and serves as a captain and judge advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The second bill, House Bill 471, designates an Honor and Remembrance flag for the state. The governor said the flag allows people to pay respects to fallen service members.

Florida has 20 major military installations, and according to DeSantis, the economic impact of veterans is over $18 billion.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills dedicated to veterans at the University of South Florida on Wednesday.
Credit Carrie Pinkard / WUSF Public Media