Urban Affairs

Expanded disabled veteran parking proposed

The Urban Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 14 on a bill that would allow veterans who have been issued a Disabled American Veteran license plate to park in handicapped designated stalls.

Sen. Rick Holdcroft

Disabled American Veteran license plates are available to any veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces who was discharged with a characterization of honorable or general conditions and is classified by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as being 100 percent disabled as a result of their service.

Bellevue Sen. Rick Holdcroft said he introduced LB274 as a way to honor the sacrifices made by military members in Nebraska.

“Not all of the injuries sustained by our veterans are physical, and not all of them are immediately visible just by casual observation,” he said. “I believe this bill is a significant, substantial way that we can honor members of our armed forces that have received injuries or impairments in conjunction with their military service.”

Testifying in support of the bill was veteran R.G. Smith, who said he was disappointed that Nebraska does not grant the same rights to disabled veterans as many states do, including his home state of Nevada.

“Currently, there are 16 other states … with similar legislation as LB274,” Smith said.

Amanda Vazquez, government relations director for the Great Plains chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, testified in opposition to the bill. Under current Nebraska law, she said, an individual can apply for a handicapped license plate or placard if they have a certified medical condition that results in their inability to walk over 200 feet without assistance from a wheelchair, crutch, walker, prosthetic or other assistive device.

“A veteran with a 100 percent [disability] rating through the VA may not have a limitation to their mobility, making them unqualified for handicapped parking,” Vazquez said. “This bill would cause handicapped parking spaces to be more difficult to access because they could be used lawfully by people who do not need the accessibility they provide.”

Purple Heart recipient Robert Tobin also testified in opposition to the bill, saying handicapped parking permits should be reserved for individuals with mobility challenges.

“Individuals who have disabilities involving [a] diminishing ability to walk can independently apply for handicapped parking permits,” Tobin said. “My wounds and injuries will probably diminish my ability to walk, at which time I can always apply for a handicapped parking permit — which I will.”

The committee took no immediate action on LB274.

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