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Benefits for families of injured veterans get complicated after Youngkin signs new budget

Scott Elmquist/VPM
(Photo by VPM News)

Democrats and Republicans both gave up something to build a compromise budget for the Commonwealth this week. But changes to a program that supports the education of the family members of injured veterans were among sacrifices that are now causing folks to speak out.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ

Virginia’s Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program was designed to give the families of those injured or killed in combat a low-cost education. According to state data in 2006, the first-year numbers are available, it cost Virginia’s public colleges about $2 million a year. But in the 22-23 school year it ballooned to over $65 million a year.

Those familiar with the budget process said changes were made to try and spread some of the costs around, including asking veterans’ family members to exhaust federal scholarship programs first.

But for those currently using the program, like disabled vet and Stafford County resident Caitlin Goodale-Porter, it’s been a lifeline that’s helped her send her two daughters to college. But the changes made in the budget put those benefits out of reach, at least until Governor Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order which his office says allowed those using the program already to be grandfathered in.

Goodale-Porter said that means her daughter should be able to use credits for grad school.

“We are less worried about her. But we’re extremely concerned about our veteran and gold star families cause we’re not out of the woods yet," Goodale-Porter told Radio IQ.

Republican Delegate Mike Cherry, himself an Air Force Veteran, said the legislature needs to address the issue if and when it returns to Richmond for a rumored special session to address skill games.

“We’re working on that right now to make sure we’ve got a draft ready to go,” Cherry said.

Support for the program is a bipartisan issue. Democratic Senator Mamie Locke proposed $87 million a year for the program. A bit less than half of that made it into the final budget. Locke didn’t return requests for comment, but her effort could signal an interest in addressing the problem before long.

The world changes fast.

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