OLYMPIA – The three first bills passed by the House of Representatives this morning—all with unanimous votes—will help active duty members, veterans, and their families to have access to services and benefits, and will also ensure their employment rights are protected.
House Bill 1213, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, modifies the definitions of “veteran” and “family” for the Veterans’ Assistance Fund, which provides funding for services and relief for indigent veterans and their families through the County Veterans Assistance Programs.
The bill corrects some issues around the complexities of the definition of “veteran” and “family” for the Veterans’ Assistance Fund eligibility. Currently, veterans have to look to three different definitions. This measure streamlines the definitions to be more consistent with those in federal law.
“By modifying these definitions, the County Veterans Assistance Programs can actually access a wider array of services and do it more quickly. It is another great way to help the men and women who serve our country, and their families,” said Orwall, who is a member of the Veterans’ and Military Affairs Joint Committee.
“We are a proud military state with over half a million veterans within our borders, but many live in remote areas, so with this bill our veterans won’t have to trek to Tacoma, Seattle or Spokane to get the services they have rightfully earned and deserve,” said Kilduff.
The bill creates a pilot program to reach out to veterans in remote areas to ensure they can benefit from the services that they have earned through their service and sacrifice. Assistance, in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and other public agencies, may include health care, employment, educational, vocational, mental health, transportation, or substance abuse services.
House Bill 2390, sponsored by Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, ensures the protection of employment rights of National Guard members when they respond to natural disasters in the state, such as flooding or wildfires.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects service members when in federal active duty. Service members called into state active duty are protected under state law.
This bill specifies that when employers do not honor these provisions, the Adjutant General in the state must step in and, if the matter cannot be resolved with the employer, the Attorney General is required to take enforcement action to protect a state service member’s employment rights.
The three measures are now in the Senate for further consideration.