Inslee signs bills to help veterans with college, other services

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

Gov. Jay Inslee signed several measures into law Wednesday that aim to help veterans in Washington state.

One new law will automatically award veterans and their family members in-state tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities. State law normally requires students to live in Washington for a year to become eligible for in-state tuition.

Senate Bill 5318 will also extend resident tuition to active-duty military members who are stationed out-of-state, but who have maintained a home in Washington.

Inslee said Wednesday it is important for Washington to build up transition programs for people leaving the military, which includes making it easier for veterans to pursue an education.

“We want all veterans from all services to retire in Washington,” Inslee said.

Another bill that Inslee signed Wednesday will require state colleges and universities to adopt policies to award academic credit for military training by the end of 2015.

Senate Bill 5969 creates a “gentle mandate” for state schools to award credit for past military training courses, said Sen. Steve O’Ban, a Tacoma Republican who sponsored the legislation. Previously, awarding college credit for military coursework was encouraged, but was “kind of a voluntary thing,” O’Ban said.

O’Ban’s bill will also require state schools to provide copies of their policy awarding credits for military training to applicants who mention they are veterans.

“We want to figure out a smart way to help military men and women to find new careers in an expedited fashion so they can earn a living,” O’Ban said Wednesday. “This is one of many important things we can do for them.”

Other veteran-related measures that Inslee signed into law Wednesday included:

-House Bill 2363, which allows family members of military personnel to remain eligible for developmental disability services in Washington — even it military orders move them out of state.

-Senate Bill 5691, which establishes a new veterans’ home in Walla Walla.

-House Bill 2397, which lets Medal of Honor recipients receive three special Medal of Honor license plates. Current law only allows Medal of Honor recipients to receive one special license plate.

-Senate Bill 5775, which allows honorably discharged service members to apply for a veteran designation on their state-issued driver license or ID card. The new designation will be available starting in August 2017.

-House Bill 2130, which requires the state Department of Veterans Affairs to notify veterans about Washington’s Veterans Innovation Program and help them apply. The program provides veterans with funding for education, training and employment opportunities, as well as support during times of crisis. The bill would also extend the program beyond 2016, when it was scheduled to end.

With the exception of the bill to create a veteran designation for IDs and driver licenses, all the new laws will go into effect in mid-June.

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