Senator Wielechowski Files Comprehensive Package of Legislation to Help Alaska’s Veterans
Legislation protects military benefits, grants occupational/academic credit for military training, and ensures Alaskans continue to receive PFD while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces
ANCHORAGE-Senator Bill Wielechowski, D- East Anchorage/Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, is pre-filing a comprehensive package of legislation this upcoming session that he has been working on for the past two years to help Alaska’s Veterans and Military Members receive benefits they’ve earned while serving in the United States Armed Forces. These bills are a product of town hall meetings, constituent ideas and meetings with military and veteran leaders.
First, Senator Wielechowski plans to introduce a measure to help veterans more quickly get jobs or finish college in the field where they have been working for years when they leave the service. The bill directs state boards to accept relevant military education, training, and service equivalent to some or all of the qualifications required when applying for an occupational license or certificate. The bill also directs the University of Alaska to implement policies and procedures to accept military experience credit towards a degree or technical program.
“Many of our Veterans have the skills, talent, training, and experience to contribute to our workforce the day they put on civilian clothes,” said Senator Wielechowski. “They need a transition process that recognizes the value of their military experience in civilian terms and, when relevant, helps them get the right certifications for their next job.”
The next piece of the package is a resolution designed to protect benefits promised to military members when they joined the service. The resolution urges members of the United States Congress to allow any service member who signed up under the current retirement plan to opt between staying with current benefits or moving to a new retirement system.
The move to protect these critical benefits started when the Defense Business Board released a suggested plan to convert military retirement from the current 20-year vesting system to a retirement system similar to a 401k as a way to meet deficit reduction requirements, which call for the Pentagon to cut close to a trillion dollars from the Department of Defense budget over the next 10 years.
“The Pentagon should not balance its budget on the backs of service members and their families,” said Senator Wielechowski. “It’s unacceptable that if this plan goes through, we will have created a bait-and-switch scenario with the military service members who put so much into protecting our country and making sure that we're a strong nation. I will continue to fight to make sure these men and women get what they were promised.”
Finally, Senator Wielechowski plans to introduce a bill aimed at making sure Alaskans who join the Armed Forces continue to receive the benefits of Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend. Although individuals choose to serve in the Armed Forces, once sworn into service, they must follow orders regarding where they will be physically stationed.
“We’ve heard from a number of long-term Alaskans serving overseas who have been denied their PFDs,” said Senator Wielechowski. “These individuals have every intention of returning to Alaska. They have family here and Alaska is their home. We should not punish them for helping protect Alaska and our nation.”
For more information, please contact Senator Wielechowski at 907-242-1558.