It's no secret that the transition from active-duty service member to veteran is often a difficult one to make. Studies show that a significant amount of veterans face psychological, financial, even physical hurdles as they trade their active-duty status for that of a veteran. Washington Senate Bill 5969, however, purports to lighten veterans' load by offering major academic benefits.
The bill, signed into law last week by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, orders Washington colleges and universities to award individuals who have completed certain military training programs academic credit by the year 2016.
Washington State Senator Steve O'Ban, who co-sponsored the legislation, defended the bill by focusing on the hardships veterans face "as they transition back into civilian life and need to build new careers."
With two sons in the military, O'Ban closely identifies with the law's rationale. "We ask so much of our brave men and women in uniform," said O'Ban. "They've made life and death decisions, mastered complicated information technology and communication systems and managed millions of dollars' worth of equipment. This is valuable training and work they've accomplished and worthy of college credit."
Tom Jenkins, President of the Husky United Military Veterans, deemed the bill "the biggest thing for veterans as it directly recognizes their accomplishments . . . and says 'thank you' for being a medical professional, or being an engineer, for example."
The law's requirements are two-pronged: first, that the individual be enrolled in college and second, that the individual's completed military training course or program meets certain criteria. The law further requires that each institution of higher education provide a copy of the new policy to every enrolled student who declared any type of military service in his or her admission applications.
While O'Ban has not specifically requested that other states follow suit, he unquestionably set a strong precedent. "There are so many ways to give back to our veterans who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms," said O'Ban, "Opening the door to a college education is a great way to say 'thank you."