State lawmakers axe funding for organization helping Florida veterans

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - Florida likes to call itself the most veteran friendly state in the country, But as Newschannel 7's Jake Stofan tells us, after state lawmakers defunded a program, which serves 1.5 million veterans in the state, it's becoming less friendly.

The Florida Veteran's Foundation has less than 5 employees and uses 90% of it's money towards helping veterans in the state.

Retired U.S. Navy Commander Dennis Baker runs the not for profit.

He 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," the retired U.S. Navy Commander said, "to provide services globally to the state. We serve 1.5 million veterans."

Funding the foundation was a top priority for the veteran's caucus.

"We're going to fight to raise awareness on these important issues," Representative Danny Burgess said, "because even the best initiatives can have a challenge."

Initially, the foundation asked for $350,000, and eventually cut their request in half. Ultimately, they got nothing.

"It's glorious," Baker said. "It's wonderful to do these things. It's heartbreaking to not. You know.... get what I think we deserve to continue on."

Without 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 donate to the foundation, go to floridaveteransfoundation.org and click donate.

In Tallahassee, Jake Stofan Newschannel Seven.