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Bills: Getting troops free

State's AG works for servicemembers to help free them of binding contracts, more

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In speaking about veterans, President Abraham Lincoln challenged the nation in his second Inaugural address, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson takes this challenge seriously and works to implement it.

During the current legislative session, the AG's office has proposed two legislative bills - each called an "agency request" - designed to further protect current and former servicemembers.

Ferguson's requests cover the people Lincoln wanted protected.

Washington is home to almost 600,000 veterans, 69,000 military personnel with more than 90,000 dependents, 20,000 reservists and 8,000 members of the National Guard.

"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," wrote Ferguson in an email.

"Our legal system - the constitutional system these fine men and women protect - fails when it does not meet their needs."

Since taking office, Ferguson has devoted resources to educate veterans and servicemembers about their rights, to include a legal resource guide resources/Military-Veteran-Resource-Guide-8-2014.pdf, successfully proposing new laws (including the Pension Poacher Prevention Act), to protect elderly veterans from scammers, and bringing the state enforcement provisions for the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in line with federal law (

The SCRA is a program that provides certain protections from civil actions against servicemembers who are called to active-duty.

It limits actions against servicemembers in the areas of financial management, such as rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgages and more.

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The two new pieces of proposed legislation extend legal protections to those who serve or have served.

A 2014 bill brought state law in line with federal law in terms of financial and legal protections to include reduced interest rates, foreclosure and eviction protections, and default judgments.  

Currently, many servicemembers are in long-term contracts, and when they are deployed or sent to a new duty station, they may be stuck with a contract they no longer use.

Due to this concern about consumer protections for military servicemembers, House Bill 1056 (Senate Bill 5041) proposes to amend the state's Service Members Civil Relief Act to allow servicemembers to cancel or suspend service contracts for things like cable TV or gym memberships when they are either deployed or assigned to a new duty station without being charged penalties or fees.

Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-28th District) and Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6th District) are the bill's respective sponsors.

"We want to continue to be ahead of the curve in protecting servicemembers," explained Travis Alley, assistant Attorney General and a veterans outreach specialist, during a telephone conversation.

"We're always looking to make Washington a more military-friendly state."

The second bill is House Bill 1055 (Senate Bill 5021), and it creates an office within the AG's office to coordinate, recruit and train attorneys willing to volunteer their time to help veterans and servicemembers face any legal challenges.

Rep. Kilduff and Sen. Steve O'Ban (R-28th District) are the bill's respective sponsors.

"This is a unique program, a clearinghouse of delivery of free legal services," continued Alley.

"Both bills make sure to continue to honor servicemembers and their service."

The House version of both bills has already received a hearing.  

Periodic updates on the progress of these and other bills will be posted at

"My proposals help improve our support for our veterans and military families," concluded Ferguson.

Lincoln would agree.

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