Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120

04/27/2021 01:00 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SB 40 VETERANS' BENEFITS SERVICES; DISCLOSURE TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 40 Out of Committee
+= HJR 16 HMONG VETERANS MILITARY RIGHTS TELECONFERENCED
Moved HJR 16 Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
             HJR 16-HMONG VETERANS MILITARY RIGHTS                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:18:35 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."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:19:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK opened public testimony on HJR 16.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:19:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MAI XIONG  testified in support  of HJR 16.   She said  that it's                                                               
been  more than  40 years  since the  promise was  made and  many                                                               
Hmong veterans have died.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:21:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR thanked Ms. Xiong.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:21:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK,  after  ascertaining  that no  one  else  wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HJR 16.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:21:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR directed her question  to Mr. Bowen and asked                                                               
whether he  knew the number  of Hmong veterans who  have received                                                               
some sort of benefit.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:22:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE BOWEN,  Director of Veterans  Affairs, Office  of Veterans                                                               
Affairs,  Department of  Military and  Veterans Affairs,  replied                                                               
that 82 Hmong veterans have  received documents to get a driver's                                                               
license.   He said that the  Hmong veterans are passing  away, so                                                               
the sooner they're able to obtain benefits, the better.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK expressed  his agreement and noted  the high mortality                                                               
rate of Hmong soldiers in battle,  and he said, "We couldn't have                                                               
done it without them."                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:24:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER  said  that  he supports  the  bill  but                                                               
questions the  existence of  a "promise"  to the  Hmong soldiers,                                                               
and  suggested  that  extension   of  veterans'  benefits  was  a                                                               
"concept" instead  of a  "promise."  He  expressed his  belief in                                                               
what HJR 16 is trying to accomplish.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  asked Representative Rauscher whether  he was looking                                                               
for a document expressing the  commitment of the U.S. military to                                                               
the Hmong.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER   said,  "I've   been  trying   to  find                                                               
something  that  points  to  the  fact that  we  made  a  promise                                                               
somewhere, other than a statement ...  half a century later."  He                                                               
stated  his belief  that the  intention of  HJR 16  is important,                                                               
deserved,  and long-overdue.    He said,  "The  one 'Whereas'  in                                                               
there just seems to bother me a little bit."                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK asked for direction to the 'Whereas' in question.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STORY directed  attention to HJR 16,  lines 25 and                                                               
26, which  read, "WHEREAS the  Hmong warriors were  promised that                                                             
they  would  be   treated  just  like  26   other  United  States                                                               
veterans;".                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:28:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  said that,  since  82  Hmong veterans  have                                                               
received  documents  to  obtain driver's  licenses,  evidence  of                                                               
service has  been substantiated.   She then referred to  H.R. 371                                                               
Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 2000 and said:                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     The law only  applied to those who served  with a U.S.-                                                                    
     backed,   Laotian-based  special   guerilla  unit,   or                                                                    
     irregular forces, and served  in the U.S. 'Secret Army'                                                                    
     any time  between February 28,  1961, to  September 18,                                                                    
     1978, and were admitted  into the United States through                                                                    
     a political refugee  status process from Laos,  or is a                                                                    
     veteran  who meets  all  of  the qualifications  listed                                                                    
       above at the time the veteran applied to enter the                                                                       
     United States and was admitted as a refugee.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  asked whether  Mr. Bowen  would like  to add                                                               
anything.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:30:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BOWEN   explained  that  the  naturalization   documents  of                                                               
individuals  entering  the  U.S.  for  political  reasons  stated                                                               
whether they were  Laotian or Hmong soldiers.   Veterans' Affairs                                                               
has already acknowledged  that there was a promise  made to Hmong                                                               
soldiers;   it  also   uses  the   naturalization  documents   in                                                               
determining military  burial honors.   He further  explained that                                                               
at the  end of the  Vietnam War, the Central  Intelligence Agency                                                               
(CIA) flew  3,500 senior officers  of the Hmong army,  along with                                                               
their families, from Laos  to the U.S.  He said  that in order to                                                               
do something of that magnitude, there  had to have been a promise                                                               
made.   He said that Jerry  Daniels, a CIA operative,  had stayed                                                               
in  Thailand  after the  evacuation  of  the senior  officers  to                                                               
facilitate the  transfer of  Hmong junior  officers to  the U.S.,                                                               
but he died before being able to testify.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  opined that the reaction  of the CIA in  bringing the                                                               
Hmong officers  to the  U.S. expresses that  there was  a promise                                                               
given.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:33:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR moved to report  HJR 16 out of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                               
note.  There  being no objection, HJR 16 was  reported out of the                                                               
House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 40 Testimony Received by HMLV 4.25.2021.pdf HMLV 4/27/2021 1:00:00 PM
SB 40
HJR 16 Supporting Document Letter to the Alaska Congressional Delegation 4.27.2021.pdf HMLV 4/27/2021 1:00:00 PM
HJR 16