McDonnell: $2M in state budget to support veterans
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget for the 2013 General Assembly session includes what the administration is terming “significant additional support” for veteran’s issues, including more than $2 million in funding.
The V3 (Virginia Values Veterans) Program, begun as a pilot program in Fiscal Year 2013, will receive $150,000 per year to assist Virginia employers increase employment opportunities for veterans. The governor’s budget provides state support for the Granting Freedom program to enable veterans to overcome access barriers caused by their service-connected injuries and provides an additional $600,000 for education benefits provided to survivors and dependents under the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP).
McDonnell’s budget also establishes a nongeneral fund appropriation for the Fort Monroe Freedom Support Center, increases the nongeneral fund support for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, funds the automation of several key processes related to the VMSDEP, increases state support for the Virginia War Memorial, and provides increased appropriation for equipment replacement at Virginia’s three state veterans cemeteries.
“One-in-10 Virginians is a veteran,” McDonnell said. “The more than 820,000 men and women who wore the uniform of our country deserve our eternal thanks for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. They served Virginia and the nation, and now Virginia must serve them. Building on the last three successful legislative sessions, my budget proposals for the 2013 General Assembly keep us on the right path to making Virginian the most veteran-friendly state in America and improving services for the brave men and women who have worn the uniform.”
First Lady Maureen McDonnell said “The Freedom Support Center at Fort Monroe will serve as a “one-stop” service facility for active, reserve and National Guard service members, their families and veterans by connecting these individuals and families with organizations that can assist with their current circumstances as well as the transition back to civilian life. By establishing a nongeneral fund appropriation for the center, we will be able to apply for federal grant funds, pursue private donations, and seek other sources of funding to enable us to better support our service members and their families.”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Terrie Suit said that Granting Freedom – Virginia’s Military Home Modification Grant Program – provides grants of up to $4,000 to Virginia veterans for home modifications to improve home access and mobility. “These grants can make a world of difference for our service-connected disabled veterans,” noted Secretary Suit. “The grants can be used for a range of modifications, from widening doorways to lowering counters to adding ramps. Any modification recommended by a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physician, hospital rehabilitation officer, or physical therapist may be eligible for a Granting Freedom grant. The funds are just one small way of recognizing our disabled veterans for their service and sacrifice.”
Commissioner of Veterans Services Paul Galanti praised the budget proposals made by Governor McDonnell. “I’m honored to serve on the governor’s team, and am very pleased that his budget proposals are concrete proof of his determination to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. Governor McDonnell’s commitment extends not only to veterans, but also to their survivors and dependents. The governor’s budget includes significant additional funding for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, which provides eligible students enrolled in a Virginia public college or university with certain education benefits in acknowledgement of the military service and sacrifice of their military parent or spouse.”
Specific budget initiatives for veterans proposed by Governor McDonnell include:
· Increase employment opportunities for Virginia veterans: Provides $150,000 from the general fund to enhance the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) initiative, a program for companies who need to re-capitalize their workforce and believe veterans are part of that effort. Through the V3 program, Virginia employers receive assistance in revamping their recruitment and retention programs in order to increase employment opportunities for veterans.
· Provide support for the Granting Freedom program: Provides $200,000 from the general fund for grants to Virginia veterans of up to $4,000 each to enable veterans to make home modifications to improve home access and mobility. Granting Freedom was began in 2005 as an effort to assist war veterans in need of assistance with modification to their homes to accommodate service-related injuries.
· Increase appropriation for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program; develop automated application/management system: Increases funding for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Program by $600,000 (general fund) for student housing and books for survivors and dependents. Provides $75,000 (general fund) to automate application, approval, and management processes. The web-based system will simplify reporting and tracking of applications, enrollment, graduation, and benefits.
· Fund Virginia War Memorial rent increase: Provides an additional $46,260 (general fund) to reflect a new rental rate developed specifically for the Virginia War Memorial to cover the expenses associated with the newly renovated facility. The special rate needed for the Memorial is due to the increase in square footage, the higher quality and more complex systems, museum-like spaces, extended openings, additional security needs, and greater custodial and landscape care.
· Establish nongeneral fund appropriation for Fort Monroe Freedom Support Center: Establishes a $200,000 nongeneral fund appropriation for the Fort Monroe Freedom Support Center to reflect donations, revenues, and federal funding.
· Increase appropriation to reflect donations: Increases by $50,000 (from $150,000 per year to $200,000 per year) the nongeneral fund appropriation to reflect an increase in donations for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program.
· Provide nongeneral fund appropriation for cemetery equipment replacement: Increases federal appropriation by $160,000 (nongeneral fund) to support the equipment replacement plan at Virginia’s three state veterans’ cemeteries. This appropriation will help address the 120 pieces of essential equipment in total at the three cemeteries that must be maintained or replaced.