New Virginia laws expand military-state relations
Col. Fern O. Sumpter, commander, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, far right, and James Winbush, center, speak with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, far left, following a ceremonial signing of state legislation by McAuliffe June 13, 2014, in Norfolk, Va. Dozens of Virginia-based military commanders attended the event.

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law June 12 five bills that directly impact service members and their families.

The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP) now grants tuition waiver eligibility to dependents of deceased service members applying to a public institution of higher education after five years of physical residency, or if the service member upon which they depend had a physical presence in Virginia five years prior to the admissions application date, according to House Bill 576.

The increase in students using the waiver will reduce tuition revenues for universities, but the bill includes additional funding and reduces the stipend provided for participants, according to an impact statement released with the bill.

It is expected that students will attend different universities, so revenue loss will be absorbed with little impact on budgets.

The Department of Veteran Services (DVS) estimates an additional 10 students per year for four years will qualify for tuition and fee waivers as a result of the legislation, resulting in a system-wide loss of tuition revenue of about $70,000 in fiscal year 2015 and $145,000 in fiscal year 2016 from the 10 additional students in 2015 and 20 additional students in 2016, according to the State Council of Higher Education.

Of the bills signed into law, two open relations between state and local militia.

First, the Department of Military Affairs added the Virginia Defense Force (VDF) to the list of organizations that are authorized to accept money and/or real property from Virginia counties, cities or towns, under the condition the VDF is maintained within the limits of that locality, according to HB 559.

The bill's verbiage states, "localities may donate property, equipment and funds as they deem proper to the various organizations of the National Guard, and every city and county in the Commonwealth having an active National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, or naval militia organization or organizations is authorized to render such financial assistance as it may deem wise and patriotic to such organization or organizations, either by donating land or buildings, or donating the use of land or buildings, or by contributing to their equipment and maintenance."

Also, Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjuntant general of Virginia, will set up services for discharged members of the Virginia National Guard through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), according to House Bill 971.

This effort is designed to assist Guardsmen in finding work post-military service, according to Jamie Radice, communications director for Gov. McAuliffe.

"The goal is to decrease the amount of time needed for transition to the civilian workforce, thus increasing employment opportunities," said Radice.

Under the new law the Department of Military Affairs is now required to provide basic information to the VEC such as rank when discharged, reason for discharge and type of employment sought, upon request of a Guard member separating from service.

"House Bill 971, as passed, will benefit separating Virginia Guard personnel in their efforts to seek post-separation employment in the Commonwealth," said Radice. "By requiring our Department of Military Affairs to relay the information identified in the bill to our Virginia Employment Commission, our Guard personnel will be automatically entered into VEC's employment database."

Page last updated Mon July 21st, 2014 at 00:00