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Connecticut Enacts Landmark Veterans Employment Law

Today, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law H.B. 5299, a sweeping piece of veterans employment legislation that will ease the transition from war to the workforce for Connecticut’s 250,000 veterans.

“Enactment of this law is a tremendous victory for the state’s veterans and their families,” said Margaret Middleton, Clinical Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, and Executive Director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC), which advocated for H.B. 5299 in the 2014 legislative session. “Yesterday, Connecticut lagged behind other states in helping veterans transfer their military skills into civilian jobs. Today we have the best law in the land.”

The new law promotes veterans employment by requiring state agencies and universities to recognize veterans’ military training. With the signing of H.B. 5299, veterans who worked as electricians, heavy-duty drivers, or in other military occupations will receive credit for their experience when applying for Connecticut job licenses. H.B. 5299 also requires Connecticut colleges and universities to award uniform academic credit for military education and training. The law sets in place comprehensive reporting requirements to track its effectiveness over time.

The law was prompted by the recommendations of a legislative task force issued on January 1, 2014, and by a Connecticut Veterans Legal Center report, which found that veterans had to take redundant training, classes, or tests — often at their own expense — to get the licenses required to work in Connecticut. As a result, many veterans return home from war only to face unemployment and underemployment at home.

“It was an outdated approach,” said Ashley Anderson ’16, a student in Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which drafted and advocated H.B. 5299 for CVLC. “EMTs were cleaning bedpans instead of saving lives because the state was not recognizing their military experience.”

The new law draws on the experience of numerous other states in streamlining veterans’ access to civilian occupational licenses and academic credit. Maryland and New York have been leaders in this area. H.B. 5299 adopts some of those states’ best policies, in addition to innovative data collection provisions, and gives Connecticut the most comprehensive law in the country. But Connecticut still trails other states in providing temporary licenses for the spouses of active-duty military personnel — many of whom are qualified teachers and nurses — who are stationed in the state.

Connecticut legislators pledged to review the state’s progress on veterans licensing and employment in future years. CVLC will also monitor the agencies’ compliance with H.B. 5299 and continue to push for further licensing reforms, including expedited temporary licenses for the spouses of active duty servicemen and servicewomen who are stationed in the state.

Connecticut Veterans Legal Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness overcome legal barriers to housing, healthcare and income.

Under the Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC), students have represented Connecticut veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts, on benefits, discharge upgrade, immigration, and pardon matters. In addition, students represent local and national organizations in non-litigation matters relating to the legal needs of veterans, including regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.