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Wash. Sen. Steve O'Ban helps pass veteran bills

Washington state now more veteran-friendly

Wash. Sen. Steve O'Ban introduced new veteran bills in 2014. Courtesy photo

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The conclusion of the 2014 legislature session in Washington saw the passage of some major bills that will benefit the state's growing veteran population, which is reportedly over 600,000, as well as active duty military families.

It seems that the number will only continue to climb; according to Defense Manpower Data Center, 11,173 servicemembers left the military in 2013 and made Washington their home.

"We recognize how much these men and women bring to our state and we want to encourage them to come here and attend our colleges," said Sena. Steve O'Ban of the 28th Legislative District. "We want them to retire from the military and put their roots down here."

Although O'Ban did not serve in the military, he has two sons who are both coincidentally stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord - one on active duty with the 2/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the other with the Army Reserves.

"I think the world of them (his sons) but I've also met their friends and I am impressed with them," he said. "I want employers and colleges to bring them in because they have so much more to offer, from experience to work ethic."

Senate Bill 5318 will remove the one-year waiting period for veterans or active duty servicemembers with regard to eligibility for in-state resident tuition. The bill, which also applies to dependents, will save military families money and allow for a smoother transition following a PCS.

"We don't want to put our active duty military at a disadvantage because of their voluntary service," he said.

There are currently 22,000 veterans, including active-duty military and their dependents, enrolled in Washington's community and technical colleges.

O'Ban introduced another bill that will also be advantageous to military pursuing education - Senate Bill 5969 ­- which requires higher education institutions in the state to award academic credit for military training.

"It recognizes the exceptional skills and training they have already developed and received," he explained. "It also eliminates redundancy and gets them through college more quickly and affordably so that they can proceed into their career."

Education benefits aside, Washington will also be implementing a new law, Senate Bill 5775, which will provide veteran designation on drivers' licenses and identification cards.  

"This law is about convenience, really. It saves a veteran from having to pull out his discharge papers when he needs to qualify for something or show proof of veteran status," O'Ban commented. "Having it on a common form of ID that we all use will hopefully allow them to claim benefits easier."

Furthermore, House Bill 2363/Senate Bill 6351 will expand access to home- and community-based service programs for the dependents of military servicemembers who are transferred to Washington.

"Often there is a waiting period to qualify for benefits like this and if you get reassigned to Washington from any other state this law will freeze your position from the previous state," he said. "Therefore you lose no time even with the move which is critical if you need these services for your children or dependents."

Finally, Senate Bill 5691 will establish a state veterans' home in Walla Walla, which will be the fourth such facility statewide.

O'Ban, who assumed the late Senator Mike Carrell's seat last June, will run in a special election this November against Tami Green. He welcomes concerns from his constituents and can be reached at 253.312.1688 or

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