By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
March 13, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida likes to call itself the most veteran-friendly state in the country, but after lawmakers defunded a program which serves 1.5 million vets, it's becoming less friendly.
The Florida Veteran's Foundation has less than five employees and uses 90 percent of its money to help veterans in the state.
Retired U.S. Navy Commander Dennis Baker runs the FVF, and says the foundation's main goal is to connect veterans with other agencies to make sure they're getting all the benefits for which they qualify.
"We serve all veterans," Baker said. "We serve pre-9/11, post 9/11, any age, any service. We take care of them all."
The program was able to help veterans access $8 million in federal funds in one county alone. Baker estimates the foundation has the potential to bring in $500 million statewide.
"We're a connector, a collaborator with other agencies to provide service globally to the state," Baker explained.
Funding the foundation was a top priority for the Veteran's Caucus.
"We're going to fight to raise awareness on these important issues, because even the best initiatives can have a challenge," said State Representative Danny Burgess (R - Zephyrhills).
Initially, the foundation asked for $350,000. They eventually cut their request in half.
Ultimately, they got nothing.
"It's glorious, it's wonderful to do these things," Baker said. "It's heart breaking to not, you know, get what I think we deserve to continue on."
Without state funding, the foundation says it will have to shut down by the end of June unless it finds another revenue source to keep it afloat until next session.
If you'd like to make a donation to the foundation, click here.