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New state laws benefit military

Gov. Inslee signs several bills into law that will directly affect service members, families

Published: 02:20PM April 10th, 2014

OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law last week several bills directly benefiting service members and their families.

Among the dozen new laws, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is most affected by five, base officials said. Those new laws involve economic protections, suicide prevention, in-state tuition residency, veterans benefit information integrity and academic credit for military training.

Joint Base commander Army Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. and deputy commander Air Force Col. Anthony Davit attended the signing of several of those bills April 2 in the Governor’s Conference Room at the Capitol.

Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year residency requirement for in-state tuition eligibility for service members and their spouses who maintain ties to Washington.

Mark B. San Souci said the bill allows service members, veterans and their families who want to go to college in Washington to pay in-state tuition as soon as they arrive. Before the law, service members coming from out of state had to reside in Washington for a year before they qualified for in-state tuition.

Senate Bill 5969 more firmly defines an existing policy in Washington involving service members getting academic credit for their military training. San Souci said that the bill, introduced by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, forces colleges and universities to develop policies that recognize applicable training as counting toward a degree or certificate. As it stands, policies run the gamut, despite military training counting toward college credit since 2010.

Hodges has been involved in the two education bills, talking to legislators and the governor about what would most help service members and their families.

“We are a nomad society,” Hodges said. “So wherever you end up, getting that in-state tuition is a great benefit, because it’s something military families can’t control. They go where their country tells them to go.”

The credit-for-training bill also is important for transitioning service members, Hodges said. The vocational and academic training service members get as a matter of course during their time in the service now can have tangible benefits once they leave, he said.

The next step in Hodges’ mind is certifications, he said. Military training such as truck driving or being a medic directly should garner a certificate without a service member taking up additional schooling, Hodges said.

Hodges said the bills go toward Washington’s push to be the most veteran-friendly state in the union.

That includes House Bill 2363, which allows service members’ dependents to retain developmental disability services eligibility as long as they’re legal residents of Washington. Dependents who leave the state because of the service member’s assignment don’t lose their eligibility.

Two other important bills signed recently by the governor:

House Bill 2171 amends state law so that Washington’s Servicemember Civil Relief Act mirrors the federal law. The act covers civil lawsuits regarding rental agreements and fees, loan rates, insurance and taxes for active-duty service members.

House Bill 2315 expands which professions must complete suicide assessment, treatment and management training, and requires the list of training programs to have veteran-specific content where applicable, among other changes.