Legislature(2021 - 2022)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/29/2021 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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Audio Topic
01:30:34 PM Start
01:31:48 PM Confirmation Hearing(s)
02:21:04 PM SB40
02:34:35 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
-Alaska Labor Relations Agency
Tyler Andrews, Dennis DeWitt
- Alaska Workers' Compensation Board
Anthony Ladd, Jason Motyka
- Board of Social Work Examiners
Mindy Swisher, Sharon Woodward
- Board of Dental Examiners - Gregory Johnson
- Board of Professional Counselors
Dorene "Dori" Hagen
- Board of Veterinary Examiners - Denise Albert
- Marijuana Control Board
Nicholas "Nick" Miller
State Board of Registration for Architects,
Engineers, & Land Surveyors - Loren Leman
Board of Marital & Family Therapy - Joy Collins
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
+ SB 40 VETERANS' BENEFITS SERVICES; DISCLOSURE TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 40 Out of Committee
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
         SB 40-VETERANS' BENEFITS SERVICES; DISCLOSURE                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:21:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COSTELLO announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL NO. 40                                                               
"An  Act relating  to veterans'  benefits services  and veterans'                                                               
benefits appeal services."                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
She said  this is  the first  hearing in  this committee  and the                                                               
intention is  to hear the  introduction, take invited  and public                                                               
testimony, and look to the will of the committee.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:21:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REVAK,  speaking as  sponsor of SB  40, stated  that this                                                               
legislation  addresses the  issue  that  some for-profit  veteran                                                               
service  providers are  preying on  veterans who  find they  need                                                               
legal, medical,  and other  services and  are unaware  that these                                                               
services  are available  at  no  cost to  the  veteran through  a                                                               
Veteran  Service Organization  (VSO).  Some for-profit  providers                                                               
are taking  a good  portion of a  veteran's benefits  in exchange                                                               
for filling out an application to receive needed services.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SB  40 essentially  says that  these  for-profit businesses  must                                                               
disclose to the veteran that  their services may be obtained free                                                               
of charge from a VSO.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:23:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SETH   DUGGAN,   Staff,   Senator  Josh   Revak,   Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature,   Juneau,  Alaska,   read   the  following   sponsor                                                               
statement into the record:                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     When  a  veteran  needs legal  representation,  medical                                                                    
     supplies, or other services, many  are not aware that a                                                                    
     Veteran  Service   Organization  (VSO)   provides  many                                                                    
     services free  of charge. Instead, they  pay hefty fees                                                                    
     to  other  providers and  take  on  debt without  being                                                                    
     fully informed about their free options.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:23:57 PM                                                                                                                    
     SB  40   seeks  to  stop  veterans   from  being  taken                                                                    
     advantage  of   by  requiring  these   individuals  and                                                                    
     businesses who  offer compensated veterans  services to                                                                    
     provide veterans a written  disclosure form listing the                                                                    
     free alternatives prior to taking  them on as a client.                                                                    
     Additionally,  any  advertisement for  veteran  benefit                                                                    
     services will be required to  include a disclosure that                                                                    
     indicates  that a  Veteran Service  Organization offers                                                                    
     these services  free of charge. Should  the veteran not                                                                    
     receive  the  disclosure,  the individual  or  business                                                                    
     responsible  can  be  fined  $1,000  dollars  for  each                                                                    
     violation.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Currently,  there are  18 Veteran  Service Officers  in                                                                    
     Alaska  who  work  under   organizations  such  as  the                                                                    
     Veterans  of  Foreign   Wars  (VFW),  American  Legion,                                                                    
     Disabled American Veterans  (DAV), the Vietnam Veterans                                                                    
     of  America   (VVA),  and  the  Director   of  Veterans                                                                    
     Affairs.  These   organizations  are   responsible  for                                                                    
     aiding and advising veterans free of charge.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The passage  of SB 40  ensures that veterans  and their                                                                    
     families who  are looking for assistance  with veterans                                                                    
     benefit  services are  fully  informed  about the  free                                                                    
     services  offered  by   Veteran  Service  Organizations                                                                    
     before they  pay for assistance.  After making  so many                                                                    
     sacrifices  to serve  our country,  veterans are  being                                                                    
     taken advantage  ofSB  40 seeks to  change this reality                                                                    
     and help  connect veterans  to the  affordable services                                                                    
     they deserve.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:25:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COSTELLO asked if it was intentional that the legislation                                                                 
has no effective date.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUGGAN deferred the question to Director Bowen.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  for examples  of how  veterans are  taken                                                               
advantage  of   and  if  the   for-profit  providers   should  be                                                               
prohibited altogether.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR REVAK cited  the example of a law firm  helping a veteran                                                               
with a  claim. The firm enters  into a contract with  the veteran                                                               
to file  the claim in exchange  for a percentage of  the benefit.                                                               
Sometimes the  percentage is high  and the veteran does  not know                                                               
that  a  VSO   offers  the  same  service  free   of  charge.  He                                                               
acknowledged  that   some  veterans   may  choose   a  for-profit                                                               
business, but the  bill ensures that they know  about the no-cost                                                               
alternative.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  if  the   for-profit  providers  fill  a                                                               
valuable niche.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  REVAK replied  we  wouldn't  want to  do  away with  the                                                               
services provided free  of charge to veterans, many  of which are                                                               
nonprofits  working in  conjunction  with the  state through  the                                                               
Division  of  Veterans Affairs.  He  described  it as  a  public-                                                               
private partnership.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:27:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HOLLAND  added  that  many   good  faith  providers  are                                                               
probably  veterans.   This  bill  is  to   ensure  that  veterans                                                               
understand   that  there   is  an   alternative  to   paying  for                                                               
representation. He acknowledged that  it sometimes would be worth                                                               
paying for the service if an expert in the field is needed.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  REVAK related  that he  received wonderful  service from                                                               
disabled  veteran  organizations  when he  was  reintegrating  to                                                               
become  a veteran.  However, he  has learned  about veterans  who                                                               
were offered services  for up to 30 percent of  the benefits they                                                               
would receive.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COSTELLO  invited Verdie Bowen  to provide  information and                                                               
state the administration's position on the bill.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:29:32 PM                                                                                                                    
VERDIE  BOWEN,  Administrative   Director  of  Veterans  Affairs,                                                               
Office  of Veterans  Affairs, Department  of Military  & Veterans                                                               
Affairs  (DMVA), Anchorage,  Alaska, said  he had  not asked  the                                                               
governor  for his  position  on SB  40 but  he  thought he  would                                                               
support it. He  related that a number of  veterans have forgotten                                                               
that they signed  paperwork with a law firm in  another state and                                                               
are very  surprised when  the benefit  they receive  is up  to 40                                                               
percent less than what they  expected. The law says that entities                                                               
serving at cost  are paid before the veteran. He  said his office                                                               
sees one or two  of these veterans a month and  the shame is that                                                               
they did not know that they  could have received the same service                                                               
free of charge.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Responding to  Senator Stevens' question, Mr.  Bowen said private                                                               
sector  attorneys serve  a purpose  when a  certain expertise  is                                                               
needed and some serve pro bono for veterans.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  if  he had  any idea  of  the numbers  of                                                               
veterans that have been affected.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:32:21 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BOWEN replied the average is  probably 50 veterans a year. He                                                               
explained that  prior to  the 2017  Appeals Modernization  Act it                                                               
was not  legal for  for-profit law firms  to charge  veterans for                                                               
these  services.  He said  his  office  is seeing  more  veterans                                                               
caught in this legal loophole every month.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:33:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  COSTELLO   opened  public   testimony  on  SB   40;  after                                                               
determining  no   one  wished  to  testify,   she  closed  public                                                               
testimony on SB 40. She noted  the letters of support in the bill                                                               
packets.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:33:38 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:34:02 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and solicited a motion.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:34:06 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOLLAND  moved to report  SB 40, work  order 32-LS0231\A,                                                               
from  committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  attached                                                               
fiscal note(s).                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR COSTELLO  found no  objection and SB  40 was  reported from                                                               
the Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.                                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SLAC GOV Appointee Tyler Andrews Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE LRA TYLER ANDREWS
SLAC GOV Appointee Tyler Andrews Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE LRA TYLER ANDREWS
SLAC GOV Appointee Dennis DeWitt Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE LRA DENNIS DEWITT
SLAC GOV Appointee Dennis DeWitt Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE LRA DENNIS DEWITT
SLAC GOV Appointee Anthony Ladd Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE WCB ANTHONY LADD
SLAC GOV Appointee Jason Motyka Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE WCB JASON MOTYKA
SLAC GOV Appointee Mindy Swisher Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE SWE MINDY SWISHER
SLAC GOV Appointee Sharon Woodward Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE SWE SHARON WOODWARD
SLAC GOV Appointee Sharon Woodward Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE SWE SHARON WOODWARD
SLAC GOV Appointee Gregory Johnson Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE BDE GREGORY JOHNSON
SLAC GOV Appointee Dorene Hagen Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE PC DORENE HAGEN
SLAC GOV Appointee Denise Albert Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE VE DENISE ALBERT
SLAC GOV Appointee Nicholas Miller Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE MCB NICHOLAS MILLER
SLAC GOV Appointee Nicholas Miller Personal Statement.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE MCB NICHOLAS MILLER
Nick Miller Appointee Letter of Opposition Cheryl Bowie.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE MCB NICHOLAS MILLER
SLAC GOV Appointee Loren Leman Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE AELS LOREN LEMAN
SLAC GOV Appointee Joy Collins Board Application Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE MFT JOY COLLINS
SLAC GOV Appointee Joy Collins Resume Redacted.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SLAC GOV APPOINTEE MFT JOY COLLINS
SB 40 Letter of Support Challenge Alaska.pdf SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 40
SB 40 Letter of Support Ron Siebels.pdf HL&C 5/3/2021 3:15:00 PM
SL&C 3/29/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 40