Hugh McQuaid photo
Micah Welintukonis (Hugh McQuaid photo)

Micah Welintukonis says he scratches his head at why he can’t use the skills he’s learned through three combat tours in the Army to directly qualify for a civilian career.

“It’s frustrating — probably the best way I can sum it up — to have to sit there in class. You’re like scratching your head, ‘I know all this stuff. Can you just give me the test please,’” he said at a Tuesday press conference.

Welintukonis, is a Coventry resident who was injured while deployed in Afghanistan in 2012. He was speaking in support of legislation, which lawmakers are hoping they can push across the finish line in the remaining eight days of the session. The bill was approved by the House in a unanimous vote Monday night.

It is designed to give military members trained in certain jobs credit for their training when they apply for similar licenses and qualifications through state agencies. It would pertain to vets trained as medics, military police, vehicle operators, as well as electricians, plumbers and other trade professions. The bill also aims to make easier the process of converting military training to college credits.

The bill overlaps with an executive order signed last year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said the bill does a better job of codifying the process by which veterans will be able to apply their training.

Veterans Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Jack Hennessy pointed to Welintukonis’ combat medic service as an example of experience that should translate to civilian qualifications.

“His medical training, and the fact that he has used it to treat soldiers in some of the most challenging situations, with severe injuries is a testament that we need to recognize military training and make it as easy as possible for our heroes to be able to apply the skills they’ve learned defending us in civilian careers,” Hennessy said.

Aresimowicz, who also served as a combat medic in the Army Reserve, said he also believed his training would easily qualify him for a civilian job.

“I came home . . . with all this medical experience and I thought, ‘Well hey, it’s a no-brainer. I was trained by the military, trained to do medical procedures in a combat situation. Surely, I’ll be able to come home and do this in the private sector.’ I quickly found out that I wasn’t, that the state of Connecticut didn’t recognize the training that I had,” he said.

The bill now awaits action in the Senate. Veterans Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Carlo Leone said he believed the senators would act on the legislation before the session adjourns next week.

“We are going to be looking to do exactly the same thing [as the House and] pass this bill with unanimous support,” he said. “. . . I think we are on a good course. I see nothing but a future here for this bill.”

Leone said lawmakers “went after the low-hanging fruit” and identified job qualifications they thought could be implemented quickly. He said he expected legislation to expand the occupations covered by the law in future sessions. 

“We hope to continue this effort . . . to make it stronger and better,” he said. “We couldn’t do everything in one session but we did want to do the things that we know we can out of the gate. So this is going to be a labor of love for many of us who support our veterans and I think we are on the right track.”