Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120

04/22/2021 01:00 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 1:15 pm --
+ SB 40 VETERANS' BENEFITS SERVICES; DISCLOSURE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
*+ HJR 16 HMONG VETERANS MILITARY RIGHTS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
             HJR 16-HMONG VETERANS MILITARY RIGHTS                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:36:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  announced that the  final order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO. 16,  "Encouraging the  United States                                                               
Congress to pass  legislation granting the Hmong  veterans of the                                                               
Vietnam  War access  to  the same  veteran  benefits received  by                                                               
United States veterans."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:36:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  NELSON, as  prime sponsor,  presented HJR  16 and                                                               
read  a  sponsor  statement,  which  read  as  follows  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     HJR  16  encourages  the   United  States  Congress  to                                                                    
     fulfill the promises made to  the Hmong soldiers during                                                                    
     the  Vietnam War  and  grant them  access  to the  same                                                                    
     veterans'  benefits  received   by  the  United  States                                                                    
     veterans.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     In  the   1960's  over  100,000  Hmong   soldiers  were                                                                    
     recruited  by the  United  States Central  Intelligence                                                                    
     Agency to help the United  States soldiers in the fight                                                                    
     against  communism.   The  Hmong  warriors   fought  to                                                                    
     intercept and  prevent the flow of  troops and supplies                                                                    
     along the  Ho Chi Minh Trail,  and approximately 40,000                                                                    
     were  killed as  they  supported  and protected  United                                                                    
     States Armed Forces during combat missions.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     The  Hmong warriors  were heavily  outnumbered, however                                                                    
     continued to fight,  gather critical intelligence about                                                                    
     enemy  operations, and  continued  to undertake  rescue                                                                    
     missions  to save  the lives  of  downed United  States                                                                    
     pilots.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     The  Hmong soldiers  suffered acts  of retribution  and                                                                    
     atrocities  at the  hand of  the Pathet  Lao and  North                                                                    
     Vietnamese  causing many  to  flee  to Thailand.  These                                                                    
     soldiers  became  refugees  because the  United  States                                                                    
     government encouraged  them to  fight on behalf  of the                                                                    
     United States.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     The Hmong people fought bravely  in what was called the                                                                    
     "Secret  War",  and  for their  loyalty  were  promised                                                                    
     access to the same  veterans benefits as those received                                                                    
     by the  United States  veterans. The Hmong  people have                                                                    
     put  their  faith  and  trust   in  the  United  States                                                                    
     government,  and we  are requesting  that the  promises                                                                    
     made to those who risked  everything for our country be                                                                    
     honored. We must recognize how  much the Hmong veterans                                                                    
     gave and lost for our country and support HJR 16.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  noted Representative Tarr's  assistance in                                                               
crafting HJR 16.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:39:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY  asked  why  the  U.S.  Congress  has  been                                                               
historically  resistant   to  honoring  the  promise   to  extend                                                               
benefits to Hmong soldiers.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  NELSON noted  the  H.R. 371  (P.L. 106-207),  the                                                               
Hmong Veterans' Naturalization  Act of 2000, and  deferred to Mr.                                                               
Bowen for further elaboration.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:40:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE BOWEN,  Director of Veterans  Affairs, Office  of Veterans                                                               
Affairs, Department  of Military and Veterans  Affairs, said that                                                               
the only benefit  for Hmong soldiers extended thus  far is burial                                                               
rights.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:40:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SHAW  described  the  Alaska  Territorial  Guard,                                                               
recruited in  the 1940s  but only  granted veterans'  benefits in                                                               
2003.  He  said the Hmong community was his  "lifeline" as a Navy                                                               
SEAL doing  tactical guerilla warfare.   He said while  the Hmong                                                               
community lost approximately 40,000  soldiers in the Vietnam War,                                                               
nearly 100,000  additional Hmong suffered afterward  at the hands                                                               
of  the  government.   He  said  that  Hmong veterans  should  be                                                               
honored with  veterans' benefits and he  would appreciate support                                                               
for HJR 16.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:42:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY  asked whether  the  resistance  is due  to                                                               
funding.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  said that he  would not assign  motives to                                                               
members  of  the federal  delegation  or  the U.S.  Congress  and                                                               
deferred to Mr. Bowen.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN explained  that the funds would not  be significant due                                                               
to  the low  number of  Hmong  veterans remaining  in the  United                                                               
States.   He  said  that  there are  approximately  60 living  in                                                               
Alaska and stated his belief that  there are fewer than 500 Hmong                                                               
veterans remaining.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:44:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK asked what the  biggest hindrance in recognizing Hmong                                                               
veterans is.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  replied, "I  honestly don't  know.   It took  us three                                                               
tries to  get the  burials completed,  and [U.S.]  Senator [Lisa]                                                               
Murkowski and  [U.S.] Senator [Dan]  Sullivan worked  pretty hard                                                               
to push  those through.  I  don't know what would  stop them from                                                               
doing fulfillment of the complete honor that is due them."                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:45:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SHAW noted that attempts  to pass benefits for the                                                               
Alaska Territorial Guard,  as U.S. citizens, took two  years.  He                                                               
explained that  the cost  was minimal  due to  the low  number of                                                               
veterans applying  for benefits, as  well as their  advanced age.                                                               
He said that due to the low  number of Hmong in Alaska, the costs                                                               
of their veterans' benefits would be similarly low.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:46:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   RAUSCHER   asked   whether  there   exists   any                                                               
documentation regarding the promise to the Hmong soldiers.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  explained that  use of  the Hmong  soldiers was  a CIA                                                               
operation and  said, "In  the black world,  if it's  not written,                                                               
it's not  said."  He  noted testimony from  the 1970s in  which a                                                               
CIA operative  said that  benefits were  promised, but  said that                                                               
most of the witnesses have since died.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:48:24 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SHAW said  that the  nature of  covert operations                                                               
and   guerilla   warfare    along   the   Cambodian-Laos   border                                                               
necessitated the  destruction of  operational orders.   He added,                                                               
"With the  Hmong community, I can  tell you for a  fact, you will                                                               
find  very little  written  history relative  to  what they  were                                                               
involved with, and what they  did, relative to the CIA operations                                                               
being as covert as they were."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON noted that he  had learned, through his own                                                               
research and discussions with the  remaining Hmong veterans, that                                                               
there is no written documentation.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:50:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK commented  that even  if there  wasn't documentation,                                                               
the agreement should  be honored.  He then announced  that HJR 16                                                               
would be held over.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 40 ver A 3.12.21.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Sponsor Statement 2.23.21.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Fiscal Note 3.4.21.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Hearing request HMLV 4.12.21.pdf HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Research VSO duties 4.13.2021.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Testimony Challenge Alaska 3.8.21.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Testimony Ron Siebels 3.3.21.pdf HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
HJR 16 version A 4.13.2021.PDF HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJR 16
HJR 16 Sponsor Statement 4.13.2021.pdf HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJR 16
HJR16 Hearing Request 4.13.2021.pdf HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJR 16
HJR 16 Fiscal Note 4.19.2021.pdf HMLV 4/22/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJR 16