Letter to Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia

Letter to Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia
News

June 17, 2024

Governor Glenn Youngkin
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 223219

Dear Governor Youngkin and Members of the Virginia General Assembly:

As national organizations representing veterans, caregivers, and survivors, we write to you today to strongly urge you to repeal the recent changes to Virginia’s Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP). These changes were made “in the dark of night” during the budget process, rather than in the normal course of legislative business, setting a demoralizing national precedent for rolling back veterans’ benefits just as the full cost of war hits home.

Prior to the recent changes, VMSDEP offered a full waiver of tuition and mandatory fees for those rated 90% or 100% disabled and the families of those who were killed in action, died on active duty, or who died as a result of their service-connected conditions. It was one of the most generous programs in the country for survivors and dependents, drawing veterans and their families to the Commonwealth and signaling Virginia as a leader among states in supporting veteran families.

Unfortunately, the budget language signed by the Governor greatly reduces this earned benefit, requires burdensome paperwork, and restricts the benefit to undergraduate programs only, and it could result in some families being forced to pay a higher portion of the tuition. As a result, Virginia now has one of the least generous education programs for veteran families and survivors anywhere in the nation.

This is a truly shocking development, as Virginia has traditionally been both military and veteranfriendly. In fact, Virginia is home to more than 150,000 active duty service members and their families, more than 700,000 veterans, and the highest percentage of women veterans in the country. Those service members and their families account for more than $103 billion in total economic impact and 11.3% of Virginia’s GDP. Disability payments to Virginia veterans alone account for an additional $5.6 billion per year.

The decision to go to war is not made at the state level, but states can and do provide a critical part of the safety net that allows our warriors to rest easy, knowing that their families will be taken care of if the worst happens. Virginia’s recent changes shift the burden of war’s consequences to those who have already paid the most, and those changes must be repealed. The eyes of the nation are upon the Commonwealth.

Sincerely,

Steve Schwab, CEO
Elizabeth Dole Foundation

Besa Pinchotti, CEO
National Military Family Association (NMFA)

Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPs)

Dave Gowel, CEO
RallyPoint

Colonel Sam Whitehurst US Army (Ret)
Dixon Center for Military and Veteran Services

Tina Atherall, DSW, LMSW, CEO
PsychArmor

Beth Conlin, Board Chair
Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce

Mrs. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.
Spouse of the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Phyllis J. Wilson, President
Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation

Elizabeth El-Nattar, Acting Executive Director
Code of Support Foundation

Kara Dallman, Executive Director
Our Military Kids

Dr. Gretchen McIntosh, Executive Director
SEALKIDS, Inc.

Jared Lyon, MPA, President and CEO
Student Veterans of America

Shannon Razsadin, CEO
Military Family Advisory Network

Ann Crittenden, President
Women Marines Association

Robin King, CEO
Navy Seal Foundation

Elisa Cardnell, President
Service Women’s Action Network

Ken Greenberg, National Executive Director
Jewish War Veterans of the USA

Sarah Verardo, CEO
Independence Fund

Michelle Norman, Executive Director/Founder
Partners in PROMISE

Heather Ehle Ray, CEO and Founder
Project Sanctuary

Phil Kowalczyk, CEO
Camp Corral

Rebekah Lovorn, Executive Director
No Greater Sacrifice Foundation

Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO
Blue Star Families

Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr. USAF, Retired, CEO
Operation Homefront

Amy Palmer, President and CEO
Soldiers’ Angels

Alexis Moore, Director
Special Forces Shield Maidens

Ryan Manion, CEO
Travis Manion Foundation

Charlie Iacono, President and CEO
The Green Beret Foundation

LTG Walter E. Piatt, US Army (Ret.), CEO
Wounded Warrior Project

cc: National Governors Association