Governor Bob McDonnell announced today his legislation to continue his effort to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in America. The announcement was made during his address to the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations General Assembly Conference. The legislation focuses on the continued need to streamline services that help Virginia's military, and increase the access to and efficiency of these services. It includes waiving the one-year residency requirement needed to qualify for in-state tuition for veterans; allowing the Department of Human Resource Management to offer voluntary TRICARE supplement health coverage for state employees who are veterans of the armed forces; providing to a veteran, free of charge, one copy of vital record if that record is to be used to determine the eligibility for state or federal veteran benefits; and, renaming the existing Office of Commonwealth Preparedness to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.
Speaking about the legislation, Governor McDonnell remarked, "Virginia is home to over 820,000 veterans and almost 200,000 active duty military. These men and women have served our country; it is essential that we continue to work to better serve them. During my campaign for Governor, I pledged to make Virginia the most veteran friendly state in America. We made great strides during the general assembly session last year when we passed 24 pieces of legislation moving us closer to this goal. But there is more we can do to ensure that veterans and our active duty military will continue to call Virginia home in the future. It is critical that we continue to streamline services that help our military, and increase the access to and efficiency of these services."
Governor McDonnell continued, "First, to expand access to our great colleges and universities, we have proposed that we waive the one-year residency requirement needed to qualify for in-state tuition. This proposal will waive the one-year residency requirement for veterans who wish to establish Virginia as their permanent residency. Veterans are the kind of citizens we want in the Commonwealth and that we want as part of our workforce. Because of their military service, they're skilled, motivated and dedicated. Second, we want to expand access to care and services through a proposal permitting the Department of Human Resource Management to offer voluntary TRICARE supplement health coverage for state employees who are veterans of the armed forces. Finally, in our effort of making services provided more efficient, we have proposed a measure that will provide to a veteran, free of charge, one copy of vital record if that record is to be used to determine the eligibility for state or federal veteran benefits. This will help our veterans receive their federal disability benefits sooner and will have little to no fiscal impact on the state."
Speaking about the legislation, Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) commented, "It is critical that we continue to improve the services we provide to our veterans. Expanding in-state tuition to veterans who choose to make Virginia home is the least we can do for the great citizens who have served our country. These men and women are highly skilled, highly trained and hard workers due to their military training, making them valuable additions to Virginia's work force. This is an excellent way we can help our veterans once they finish their military service."
Delegate Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) also noted, "Last year, with Governor McDonnell's leadership, we passed 24 pieces of legislation to help our veterans and active duty military. But there is more to be done to ensure that this is the most veteran friendly state in the nation. This year we are going to provide more veterans access to a quality higher education once they leave the military by granting in state tuition to any veteran who wants to make Virginia home. We're also going to ensure that families don't lose in state tuition rights if the parents move due to a change in assignment. This is a great service we can provide to our veterans and active duty military to ensure that they remain in the Commonwealth or choose to return after their service."
2011 Veterans Legislation
* In-State Tuition (Senator Edwards SB 824 and Delegate Stolle HB 1848) - Increase educational opportunity for veterans by waiving the one-year residency requirement needed to qualify for in-state tuition rates.
* Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security (Senator Vogel and Delegate Sherwood HB 1773) - Renaming the existing Cabinet Office, Commonwealth Preparedness (OCP), to Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, to move Department of Veteran's Services and related Boards and Commissions to this Office, and to Reorganize Certain Boards and Commissions Related to this Office
* COPN Exemption (Senator Locke SB 986 and Delegate Athey HB 1697) - Provide an exemption to the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process to all current and future veterans care centers. This will facilitate the construction of an addition to the Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center in Richmond, as well as new care centers planned for Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia
* Vital Record (Senator Northam SB 959 and Delegate Massie HB 1719) - Provide to a veteran of his/her spouse, free of charge, one copy of vital record, if that record is to be used in the determination of eligibility for state or federal veterans benefits. By submitting a copy of the vital record with the claims application package, we can eliminate the time it takes for the VA to request the record and for it to be sent to the VA for review. This will speed the VA review process, and could help our veterans receive their federal disability benefits sooner.
* The Veterans Care Center Advisory Committee (Senator J. Miller SB 958 and Delegates Cole and Watts HB 1666) - Eliminate the requirement for an advisory committee on veterans care centers The Veterans Care Center Advisory Committee has not met for almost two years and the functions of the committee are duplicated by the Care Centers Committee of the Board of Veterans Services
* Zero Cost Benefit for Veteran Employees: TRICARE Supplement (Delegate Kirk Cox HB 1761 and Senator Wampler SB 892) - This legislation will permit DHRM to offer voluntary TRICARE supplement health coverage under the Commonwealth's IRC Section 125 cafeteria plan. Because eligible state employees pay the full cost of TRICARE supplemental coverage, there is no fiscal impact to the state for implementation of such a program. State employees who elect to receive primary coverage under the TRICARE Military Health System will benefit from the convenience and savings of payroll deduction for TRICARE supplemental coverage on a pre-tax basis.
* Domicile protection for Military Spouses (Senator McWaters and Delegate Stolle HB 1848) - This legislation will provide clarification to Virginia institutions of higher education, when evaluating domicile status, that a Virginia domiciled military spouse does not forfeit domicile status due to accompanying the active duty service member while stationed outside of Virginia.
* Virginia Commission on Military and National Security Facilities (Senator Ruff and Delegate Anderson HB 2041) - A Bill to Amend the Freedom of Information Act by adding a Commission Created by Governor's Executive Order for the Purpose of Retaining, Growing or Attracting Military and National Security Facilities to the Exemptions presently covering the Virginia Military Advisory Council, the Virginia National Defense Industrial Authority and other Similar local Organizations.
* Professional Licenses (Senator Stosch and Delegate Cosgrove HB 1862) - Legislation to Provide an Extension of the Expiration of Certain Licenses, Certifications, Registrations or Other Documents Held by the Spouse of a Service Member When Stationed Overseas. This legislation will position military spouses to return to Virginia and to work in a professional career quickly.
* Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (Delegate Greason HB 1976) - Legislation to Conform Membership of the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children with the Required Membership Agreed to by the Commonwealth in the Interstate Compact
* Budget Amendments:
o $387,000 to increase the veteran cemetery budget
o $6,700,000 million for repair and maintenance of National Guard armories