Virginia lawmakers to hold special session on changes to military education benefits program

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Senate will reconvene in a special legislative session next week to consider a proposal that would exempt some military families from pending changes in eligibility for a state program for educational benefits at state public colleges and universities.

The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program waives tuition for survivors and dependents of veterans killed or seriously disabled while on active duty.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and lawmakers made changes to eligibility for the program in the two-year budget set to take effect on July 1.

WAVY-TV reports that Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Louise Lucas said she plans to hear legislation in the special session on Tuesday that calls for clarifying that all students who enroll in classes by Fall 2024 are grandfathered into the existing program prior to the budget changes. The legislation would also exmpet Gold Star Families, applicable Line of Duty beneficiaries, and those wounded as a result of military combat who are at least 90% disabled.

“This budget was a product of bipartisan collaboration between the General Assembly and the Governor. We are committed to taking this necessary step to rectify unintended consequences as we continue to work together to conduct an independent review to find a long-term solution for VMSDEP,” Lucas said.

The Virginia House of Delegates plans to take up the issue in a special session on June 28.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Youngkin wants to repeal the budget provisions that would limit access to the program benefits while directing a task force to study options for reducing the program’s rising costs and protecting other tuition-paying students and their families.

“We’ve heard from Virginia military families and heroes, now it’s time to come together and for the General Assembly to send me a clean bill that solely and fully repeals and reverses the eligibility changes made to VMSDEP," Youngkin said in a statement on X Thursday.