(1) The Department of Veterans’ Affairs shall provide assistance to all former, present, and future members of the Armed Forces of the United States and their dependents in preparing claims for and securing such compensation, hospitalization, career training, and other benefits or privileges to which such persons or any of them are or may become entitled under any federal or state law or regulation by reason of their service in the Armed Forces of the United States. All services rendered under this subsection shall be without charge to the claimant.
(2) The executive director of the department may employ such personnel and incur such expenses as he or she may deem necessary to administer this chapter and may also prescribe the salary standards, rights, powers, duties, and qualifications of all persons employed by the department. The director and his or her staff shall be reimbursed for travel expenses as provided in s. 112.061. (3) The department has authority to adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to implement the provisions of this chapter.
(4) The department may apply for and accept funds, grants, gifts, and services from the state, the United States Government or any of its agencies, or any other public or private source and may use funds derived from these sources to defray clerical and administrative costs as may be necessary for carrying out its duties.
(5) The department shall conduct an ongoing study on the problems and needs of those residents of this state who are veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States and the problems and needs of their dependents. The study shall include, but not be limited to:
(a) A survey of existing state and federal programs available for such persons that specifies the extent to which such programs presently are being implemented, with recommendations for the improved implementation, extension, or improvement of such programs.
(b) A survey of the needs of such persons in the areas of social services, health care, education, and employment, and any other areas of determined need, with recommendations regarding federal, state, and community services that would meet those needs.
(c) A survey of federal, state, public, and private moneys available that could be used to defray the costs of state or community services needed for such persons.
(6) The department shall, by December 31 of each year, submit an annual written report to the Governor, the Cabinet, and the Legislature which describes:
(a) The expenses incurred in veteran service work in the state; the number, nature, and kind of cases handled by the department and by county and city veteran service officers of the state; the amounts of benefits obtained for veterans; the names and addresses of all certified veteran service officers, including county and city veteran service officers. The report must also describe the actions taken by the department in implementing subsections (4), (5), and (7) and include other information and recommendations as the department requires.
(b) The current status of the department’s domiciliary and nursing homes established pursuant to chapter 296, including all receipts and expenditures, the condition of the homes, the number of residents received and discharged during the preceding year, occupancy rates, staffing, and any other information necessary to provide an understanding of the management, conduct, and operation of the homes.
(7) The department shall administer this chapter and shall have the authority and responsibility to apply for and administer any federal programs and develop and coordinate such state programs as may be beneficial to the particular interests of the veterans of this state. Such programs shall be subject to chapters 215 and 216.