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Durell_shipbase_0161 Coast Guard.JPGA proposed California law would allow only these words to be used for a question the state already asks: "Have you ever served in the military?"

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, contends that asking the question in that manner, mandated by Assembly Bill 258, would put money in more Californians' pockets.

Here's the current problem: To determine whether residents are eligible for various benefits, the state asks respondents whether they are veterans or have served in the armed forces, said Anthony Zamarron, Chávez's chief of staff.

Some Californians say no when they should say yes, Zamarron said, because they think "veteran" means someone who has gone to war or they don't realize that it includes members of the Coast Guard and National Guard.

Veterans disability, pension, education, housing and other public assistance is at stake, he said.

To eliminate confusion among potential beneficiaries, Chávez -- a former acting secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs -- has wanted for years to revise state documents, Zamarron said.

"If at least a few more veterans identify themselves as being veterans if we change the question, it's a plus for California," Zamarron said.

If signed into law, AB 258 would apply to documents printed on or after next Jan. 1.

PHOTO CREDIT: USCGC Bertholf at berth at Coast Guard Island, next to Alameda in San Francisco Bay, October 30, 2009. Robert Durell / Special to The Bee



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