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Legislature passes bill to protect Washington’s military personnel and veterans

A bill jointly requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee to increase economic protections for Washington’s military personnel and veterans passed the Legislature today with strong bipartisan support. The Governor looks forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits his desk.

Ferguson and Inslee worked with Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, to secure approval of House Bill 2171.

“As someone who comes from a family of veterans, I am committed to standing up for those who serve our country,” said Ferguson. “This bill increases state protections for Washington’s military personnel and their families and gives the Attorney General’s Office the tools to enforce veterans’ rights.”

“These men and women make enormous sacrifices in service to our country, and we have an obligation to support them — not just when they return, but while they’re deployed within Washington as well as overseas,” said Inslee. “Deployment shouldn’t mean added worries about your financial affairs at home. This is one way we can help our active duty military stay focused on preserving the lives of Washington residents, and protecting critical infrastructure and providing essential services to citizens in times of emergencies.”

Protections under Washington state law for military servicemembers called to active duty are less than those provided under federal law. This inequality means that servicemembers whose active duty orders are signed by the Governor — such as in cases of natural disaster — have fewer rights than those whose active duty orders are signed by the President.

HB 2171 addresses this inequality by incorporating existing federal protections into state laws to protect military personnel, veterans, and their families.

The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides various financial and legal protections for military servicemembers ordered to federal active duty. Examples include reduced interest rates on preexisting debts, foreclosure and eviction protections, and protections from default judgments.

These protections allow the men and women who bravely serve in our Armed Forces to focus their full attention on their military responsibilities without adverse consequence for themselves or their families.

HB 2171 brings state enforcement provisions for the SCRA in line with the federal law and empowers the Washington State Attorney General to enforce the state and federal Acts.

“I want to thank Rep. Orwall and Sen. Hobbs for their leadership and the bipartisan support of many other members particularly Sen. Fain and Sen. Baumgartner,” said Ferguson.

“Passage of this legislation attests that we value our veterans and servicemembers. Enacting these protections says thank you to these heroic and honorable men and women who have served or are currently serving our country with dedication and courage,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Tina Orwall, who co-chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs. “This bill is about fairness and justice, but also about gratitude and reciprocity since it’s only right that while they are protecting us, we should protect their families and the lives they left behind.”

“As a member of the National Guard, I understand the pressures we face when called to active duty," said Sen.Steve Hobbs, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “These changes harmonize provisions dealing with enforcement of state and federal law so all active duty Guard and their families are protected.”

Individuals who have concerns about possible SCRA violations are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-551-4636 or file a complaint at: http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx.

The Attorney General’s Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide provides more information about the SCRA and its protections. The guide is available at www.atg.wa.gov/VeteranMilitaryResources.aspx.

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