DeSteph addresses VA Military Survivor and Dependents Program

June 11, 2024
 |
Virginia Capitol Building

 

State Senator Bill DeSteph released the following statement regarding the Virginia Military Survivor and Deopendents Program.

On May 13, changes embedded in the 2025/2026 Biennium Budget Bill have significantly altered the Virginia Military Survivor and Dependents Program (VMSDEP). Originally a service-earned tuition and fee waiver for Gold Star Families—survivors of military personnel killed in action, on peacekeeping missions, combating terrorism, or as prisoners of war—and dependents of 90%-100% service-disabled veterans, it has been modified to a needs-based, means-tested, last-payer form of financial aid with additional qualification limitations. These alterations have rendered the program virtually unusable for many, with the consequence that students registering for Summer 2024 classes and thereafter will no longer benefit from the waiver.

 

Directive ED7 tasked the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to coordinate with the Chairman of Veteran Services and Secretary of Education to communicate these changes widely, including through school districts. Unfortunately, this message has not been adequately spread.

 

Currently, only students already enrolled or who had committed to an institution by May 15, 2024, are grandfathered under the original plan.

 

As your Senator, I am determined to ensure all impacted families are fully informed of these changes.

 

A Task Force, appointed by the Governor, will hold its first public meeting on Monday, June 10, 2024, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the War Memorial in Richmond. Public statements will be entertained, and everyone is encouraged to participate. This is an ideal opportunity for your voices to be heard.

 

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Furthermore, the Governor has summoned a Special Session of the General Assembly, scheduled before June 30, 2024 (June 28), to vote on restoring the program pending a comprehensive study of its solvency and viability.

 

I advocate for a rigorous, independent audit of all metrics and cost reporting conducted by the Fiscal Analyst for the House Appropriations Committee, comparing data across SCHEV, universities and colleges, and the Department of Veteran Services. I will also push for a cost-benefit analysis concerning the contributions to the Virginia economy.

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Do not lose hope—correction is possible. I urge you to make your presence felt in Richmond on both June 10 and June 28. This is a prime example of democracy in action. Since the early hours following the budget vote, I have been tirelessly working to repeal this detrimental provision.

 

I remain unwavering in my commitment to address this critical issue, which stands as a paramount political concern within the Commonwealth of Virginia at this time. I commend the VMSDEP Friends group for their vigorous advocacy, which has significantly spotlighted this issue.

 

Investing in education is investing in Virginia’s future.

 

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