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Virginia lawmakers reach a tentative deal to repeal changes to veteran tuition program

Lawmakers at the Virginia Capitol fail to repeal cuts to a tuition program for veterans.
Steve Walsh
Lawmakers at the Virginia Capitol fail to repeal cuts to a tuition program for veterans.

After the Senate failed to pass any legislation to repeal cuts to the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Program, legislative leadership announced a compromise.

UPDATE JULY 2, 6:30 P.M:

Senate President pro tempore Louise Lucas said in a statement General Assembly leaders reached an agreement on the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Program (VMSDEP).

The new legislation will fully repeal the changes to the program advocates and veterans groups objected to and provide $90 million from the state budget surplus to offset costs of the program. With money already appropriated in the state budget, the program will have $65 million in each of the next two years.

"“A full, clean repeal with additional financial support for the VMSDEP program, unencumbered by any other provisions, is great news for our military heroes, first responders, and their families," Gov. Glenn Youngkin wrote on X.

The new proposed provisions are on top of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission committing to a study on the program on Monday.

"This study and the allocation of what will now be $65 million per year for the program provides me with the comfort that we will not place the burden of the escalating costs of the program on other students through their tuition charges," Lucas wrote in a statement.

"Making education affordable for all students is a priority for us all. The JLARC student and our select workgroup on VMSDEP will provide us with the answers we need to ensure this program will be sustainable long-term to serve veterans and their families."

The House of Delegates and Senate will return on July 18 to consider the new legislation.


Virginia lawmakers are still searching for a solution as cuts went into effect to a program that helps cover in-state tuition for families of veterans who were killed or are at least 90% disabled.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin called for a special session, asking lawmakers to repeal all of the changes that were placed in the budget deal he signed in May. The House of Delegates voted unanimously to repeal the changes on Friday, but Monday the Senate failed to pass a bill for the second time during a special session.

Without a bill, the changes enacted in the state budget went into effect Monday. Veterans groups worry their members and dependents no longer qualify for tuition this fall, since the deadline to apply for other financial aid passed in the spring.

“People - who were made this promise by the Commonwealth - would have made other financial decisions if they knew that their child was not going to have their tuition and mandatory fees provided for them,” said Brent Reiffer, with the Wounded Warrior Project. “All of a sudden, they're left holding the bag and trying to figure out how they can pay for it.”

The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program has been around since the 1930s but it has seen costs have risen as more Post-9/11 vets qualify.

Veterans groups that opposed the changes have lobbied heavily for a full repeal.

Rather than vote on the House bill, Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas introduced a new bill Monday that added $85 million to off-set the tuition support lost by public universities, along with a requirement that students make academic progress beginning next year.

Lucas told members of the Senate Finance Committee that she met with the governor for three hours Monday morning.

“It is my hope that the governor and the house will join me in announcing that we have an agreement,” Lucas said.

The Senate failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to waive the chamber rules to allow the bill to be heard with less than 48 hours’ notice.

Youngkin expressed his displeasure toward Senate leadership after the chamber failed to vote.

“The Senate Democrat leadership is hurting our military heroes, first responders and their families every time they show up and do nothing,” he wrote in a statement

“A full, clean repeal, which passed out of the House unanimously, and was supported by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, could have been signed today.”

The governor is calling for lawmakers in both chambers to return next week, on the same date to work on a final deal.

Updated: July 2, 2024 at 6:30 PM EDT
Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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