Lawmakers support veteran's bills

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly stated that Angel introduced these bills when she was only a supporter. The online story has been corrected.

Local lawmakers expressed have their support for bills that benefit veterans right out of the gate for this year’s session.

Newly elected 26th District Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) began her legislative tenure by supporting three bills that would increase veterans' access to state and federal assistance programs and ease their ability to be considered for public service employment.

“Veterans have put their lives on the line to ensure our freedom. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude and support,” said Angel. ”When they return from serving our country, it can be quite frustrating when they are unable to access certain benefits or must jump through hoops to qualify for services that they are entitled to receive. I want to help remove those barriers with this legislation.”

House Bill 1049 would add members of the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves to those veterans who would be eligible to receive relief under a county's existing veterans' assistance program. Angel said it would especially help local indigent veterans.

House Bill 1050 would eliminate a requirement that a veteran must serve one year or more of active duty to receive additional credit on competitive examinations when applying for public service employment. This would include being considered for a job with the state or local municipalities.

And House Bill 1051 is a measure that would require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to find ways to increase veterans' access to state and federal assistance programs.

Public hearings were held Tuesday in Olympia on House Bills 1049 and 1050 in the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee.

The committee was scheduled to take action on the legislation Friday, Jan. 16.

House Bill 1051 has also been referred to the State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, however, a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Additionally, a bill sponsored 26th District Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) cleared an important obstacle, passing out of the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee.

Senate Bill 5036 would close a loophole in current laws that exclude some National Guard members and Reservists from accessing county Veteran Assistance Funds (also known as Veterans Relief or Soldiers and Sailors Fund).

Current language requires a service member to have prior service experience or received an honorable discharge to be eligible for this assistance, meaning that National Guard members and Reservist on their first enlistment are not eligible.

This proved problematic for some young servicemembers who were deployed to Iraq during their first enlistment.

The loss of their civilian income stream can prove challenging for families left behind, and a technicality in the current law prevented them from access to much-needed assistance.

“This bill is really directed at getting resources to people who need it,” said Kilmer. “If you serve your country we should have your back and you shouldn’t have to suffer financially.”

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