Service to this country often comes with certain handicaps and being assigned to this state often exacerbates them. That’s why the Washington State Veterans Legislative Coalition is advocating on behalf of active duty, reservists, veterans and their families.
There are many differences in the lives of active duty, reservists and veterans from those of their civilian counterparts. For instance, a civilian leaves school and then enters the workforce and progresses on with life. They know the community and can flourish within it. However, those who go into the military are almost always separated from the community in which they grew up, distanced from family and friends — building a civilian career is put on hold. They cannot put down roots. So when they eventually do leave the service, there is much catching up to be done.
Many of the rules, ordinances and laws in this state did not take into consideration military families and their lifestyles. The purpose of the Washington State Veterans Legislative Coalition is to level the playing field for service members, their families and veterans. The coalition is a lobbying organization formed to work with the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs and the state Legislature.
The Veterans Legislative Coalition’s membership is made up of veteran service organizations and volunteers. Operating in conjunction with the WDVA, the coalition communicates with elected officials regarding laws protecting or enhancing the lives of service members, veterans and families.
Each year at the beginning of the legislative season in Olympia, the Veterans Legislative Coalition receives a list of proposed veteran-focused bills from the WDVA. It then decides which bills it will support and has a member there to provide supportive testimony at public hearings.
The Veterans Legislative Coalition enjoys good standing with the Legislature because of its professionalism. Thanks to its willingness to work with the legislators, success rates are high.
For example, active duty members and family once had to pay out-of-state college tuition until they could show Washington state residency for 12 months. The Veterans Legislative Coalition worked with the WDVA and the Legislature to reduce that residency requirement to just one month.
Other examples of their work: a bill that reduced the fees in state parks and forests for active duty and veterans and stricter laws against “pension poaching” — a scam that fooled elderly vets by charging for services that are, in fact, free.
This session, the Veterans Legislative Coalition is supporting the passage of Senate Bill 1041. It would have the Washington attorney general enforce certain consumer protections for active duty service members related to contracts for cable television, cell phones, apartments, and so on.
“The men and women of our armed forces face unique challenges. As someone who comes from a military family, I believe it is important to do everything we can to support those who serve or have served our country. My proposal ensures military consumers don’t get stuck with contracts they can’t use because they are deployed or ordered to relocate,” said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The Veterans Legislative Coalition is also supporting House Bill 1055, which would permit the Washington state attorney general’s office to provide free legal services for reservists and active duty folks related to legal issues stemming from their military service.
Readers can go online to www.app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo to learn who their elected officials are and find out what veteran/active duty-focused bills under consideration. A simple email, phone call or — even better — face-to-face testimony at a public hearing are effective ways to get laws passed that benefit all of us.