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RICHMOND — Gov. Bob McDonnell proposes to pump $2 million into programs that aid veterans.
Among them are initiatives to help veterans find employment, provide home improvement grants to certain wounded vets and to increase funding to assist military survivors and dependents with education expenses.
McDonnell has said his objective is “making Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.”
His proposed budget for the 2013 General Assembly session includes significant additional support for veteran’s issues, including more than $2 million in funding.
The V3 (Virginia Values Veterans) Program will receive $150,000 per year to help Virginia employers increase employment opportunities for veterans.
McDonnell’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), according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The budget proposal 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.”
The governor said he is especially proud of the V3 Program, which “helps Virginia employers sharpen their focus on hiring, training and retaining our veterans. Veterans are trained, skilled and highly motivated, and I encourage each and every employer in Virginia to affirm their commitment to hiring veterans by joining the V3 Program.”
First Lady Maureen McDonnell said in a news release that 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 them with organizations “that can assist with their current circumstances as well as the transition back to civilian life.”
She said establishing a nongeneral fund appropriation for the center will enable the state to apply for federal grants, pursue private donations and seek other sources of funding to provide services.
Terrie Suit, Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, said the Granting Freedom grant program — provides grants of up to $4,000 to Virginia veterans for home modifications to improve access and mobility.
“These grants can make a world of difference for our service-connected disabled veterans,” Suit said. “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,” Suit added.
Commissioner of Veterans Services Paul Galanti praised the budget proposals. “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.”
BUDGET INITIATIVES FOR VIRGINIA VETERANS
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 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.