Legislation aims to help veterans needs

Derek Kilmer moved from the 26th Legislative District in the State Senate to Congress, but said much of his focus on veterans in his new role will come from his past experience. Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) represents Washington’s 6th Congressional District.
In 2006, when Kilmer was a member of the state’s House of Representatives for the 26th Legislative District, he was the primary sponsor of a bill that added military personnel to a state anti-discrimination law. That measure passed by a 96-2 vote in the House.
“There were people in the National Guard or reserves that were told they were qualified, but (the prospective employers) were worried that they might be called up,” Kilmer said.
More recently, Kilmer sponsored Senate Bill 5307 that counts military training toward several medical professions, such as opticians. That passed the Senate 46-0 in 2011. Kilmer said that piece of legislation reduced redundant training and “rewards knowledge” for veterans moving into civilian careers.
Later that year, Kilmer also sponsored Senate Bill 5969, which expedites licensing of military spouses who recently moved from another state. The bill applies to a multitude of professions, helping workers in careers ranging from massage therapy to nursing and teaching become licensed by the state.
Kilmer said he sponsored the bill after meeting with a soldier who said her husband had a difficult time getting licensed for his profession when they moved to Washington.
“I think this is the right thing to do for families who are really sacrificing on behalf of our country,” Kilmer said in a previous news release. “I think it’s the right thing to do for our economy, so more folks can support their families and draw a paycheck rather than unemployment.”
At that time, one-third of 43,000 military spouses within the state required a professional license for their careers, according to data provided by the Department of Defense.
Kilmer, who succeeded Norm Dicks in January, said he wants to bring some of that statewide legislation to a nation level in his new position. He said those reforms not only benefited veterans, but businesses.
“We’re in a situation where we have a number of veterans looking to enter the workforce,” said Kilmer, who also helped create local legislation that created a registry of Washington state veteran and service member-owned businesses. “If through smart policy we can help ease that transition, we will be stronger as a country both economically and having the back of those who have served.”
Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor), who replaced Kilmer as 26th Legislative District Senator, said he endorses House Bill 1011.
That piece of legislation, which was introduced by State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), would remove the one-year waiting period for veterans or active-duty military to become eligible for resident tuition.
“They would be treated the same as everyone else and get in-state tuition rates,” Schlicher said. “We want to keep strong and well qualified military members in state.”
Beyond those issues mentioned above, healthcare also is a focus for both Kilmer and Schlicher. Kilmer said he is focused on continuing to improve healthcare options for veterans in rural communities.
Schlicher estimates there are 15 bills dealing with a variety of mental health issues for veterans, including those with co-occurring disorders.
“It’s starting the conversation on dual diagnosis and making sure they get care when they need it,” Schlicher said. “I’m passionate about mental-health issues.”
As well as a politician, Schlicher also serves as an emergency room doctor.