Oklahoma lawmakers launch state-wide veteran registry

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KXII) - Rep. Tommy Hardin and Sen. Frank Simpson helped create the Oklahoma Veterans Registry in 2017 through House Bill 1198 and launched the program the first week of May.

Hardin said talks with the Department of Veterans Affairs led them to believe that the state did not know the exact number of veterans.

"There was a difference between federal numbers and our numbers so we wanted to make sure that we had the numbers right," Hardin said.

Hardin said the new registry, although voluntary, will help get a better idea of knowing how many veterans live in Oklahoma because federal dollars used for benefits follow the number of veterans.

"Veterans will be helping other veterans just by signing up, by increasing the numbers and having the right numbers for our state," Hardin said.

The registry on the ODVA website is open to all Oklahoma residents serving on active duty or in the Oklahoma National Guard, as well as veterans with an honorable discharge.

The registry provides an easier way for veterans to get information about benefits, such as tax exemptions and educational opportunities, instead of going to multiple agencies in charge of specific benefits.

"We want to make sure that we're giving benefits to those veterans who qualify for benefits and these benefits are not being taken advantage by those who may not qualify," Simpson said.

Senate Bill 358, passed in the 2019 session, requires the Oklahoma State Health Dept. to provide a list of deaths of veterans in the state so the registry can remain accurate.

Simpson and Hardin, both veterans themselves, were the first to register, followed by members of the bicameral Veterans Caucus.