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New laws coming supporting Guard members and families

New laws coming supporting Guard members and families

The Washington state Legislature took important action this legislative session to help the Washington National Guard recruit and retain members.

“We had a great session, with three bills signed into law that directly affect our Washington National Guard members and their families,” said Jim Baumgart, director, intergovernmental affairs and policy for the Washington Military Department.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation creating a new recruiting referral incentive program to maximize peer-to-peer recruiting and increase enlistments in the Washington National Guard. Once established, the program may provide cash bonuses to current members who refer a new enlistment.

“We know that referral programs that offer financial incentives work,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general, during his testimony of the bill in January. “That’s why many private-sector companies do it for talent acquisition. It’s why the state of Minnesota offers members of their national guard a financial incentive for referrals. In fact, we do it here (in Washington) at other state agencies – to include the Washington State Patrol.”

Inslee also signed House Bill 2004, which allows all military members and dependents early registration for courses at colleges and universities in the state. Beginning in the 2024-25 academic year, institutions of higher education that offer an early course registration period for any segment of the student population must have a process in place to offer students who are eligible veterans, national guard members, active duty military members and their spouses, domestic partners and dependents early course registration.

“While this isn’t a specific bill to the National Guard, the ability for our members and families to register early for classes they need to complete their degrees is important,” said Baumgart.

The final bill signed on March 19 expands the existing Washington National Guard Post-Secondary Grant Program to include a Guard member’s dependents. The term "dependent" means a person enrolled as a dependent in the defense enrollment eligibility reporting system, most often a spouse or child.

“We took the state’s existing program and just expanded it to look more like the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” said Baumgart. “We have Guard members that don’t need to use the benefit, but maybe their spouse or children are working toward a degree so they can get a better position. That is a direct benefit to that Guard member.”

The Washington National Guard Post-Secondary Grant program, managed by the Washington Student Achievement Council, currently helps pay college costs not covered by other financial aid. It can be used at any institution of higher education located in the state and accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, or an institution that is located in the state that provides approved training under the Montgomery GI Bill.

For more information about the Washington National Guard Post-Secondary Grant program visit