Virginia Politics

Virginia Senate fails to act on changes to military education benefits program; Youngkin stunned

The Virginia Senate has failed to take up a bill to exempt some military families from pending changes in eligibility for a state program for educational benefits at state public colleges and universities.

Facing an uproar from military families, Gov. Glenn Youngkin had asked lawmakers to tweak portions of a recently signed bill that would have prevented some from accessing the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program. The program waives tuition for survivors and dependents of veterans killed or seriously disabled while on active duty.

Senators met in a special session Tuesday but had nothing to consider on the benefits bill after Democratic Sen. Louise Lucas, the head of the Finance and Appropriations Committee, declined to advance any proposed legislation, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Lucas said a group will meet June 28 to start gathering public comments, discuss the program and make recommendations to the full committee in September.

Youngkin and lawmakers made changes to eligibility for the program in the two-year budget set to take effect on July 1. The program is facing rising costs and questions over who should be able to benefit.

But, after hearing from military families, the governor said he wants lawmakers to repeal the budget provisions and let a task force further study what changes should be made.

Youngkin said he was stunned by the Senate's lack of action Tuesday “to even consider a simple bill, supported by a bipartisan majority of Senators.”

Military heroes, first responders, and their families "deserve so much better," Youngkin said in a statement.

The Senate plans to meet again in a special session on Friday, while the Virginia House of Delegates still plans to meet in its special session June 28 despite the Senate not passing the bill, House Speaker Don Scott told the newspaper in a text message.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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