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Governor McAuliffe Announces Legislative Agenda for Veterans and Military Families

~Legislative package includes veteran entrepreneurship grant pilot program, directives for cooperation between civilian child welfare and military authorities, and comprehensive reforms to the Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) Program~

Governor Terry McAuliffe today proposed a legislative package for the 2017 General Assembly session designed to ensure veterans and military families are provided every opportunity for success in the Commonwealth. The package includes initiatives encouraging entrepreneurship among former service members and streamlining cooperation between civilian and military agencies when responding to cases of child neglect. Additionally, following a Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC) report and recommendations of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) Working Group, the VVFS Program will undergo comprehensive reforms so that it may better serve our veterans and their families.

Governor McAuliffe made the announcement at the Virginia Beach Campus of Tidewater Community College (TCC). TCC has the largest veteran and military-connected student population of any community college in Virginia.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished to make Virginia the best state for our veterans, service members, and their families. This legislative session presents an opportunity to advance our work by creating new opportunities for the men, women, and families that have sacrificed on behalf of Virginia and our nation,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at today’s announcement. “The proposals I am introducing today are a combination of common sense reforms and innovative actions that will stimulate business and capital opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs and strengthen the tools and resources we offer veterans, active duty service members, and their families across the Commonwealth.”

“As an Army veteran and small business owner, I know that our veterans are well trained and highly qualified. The Virginia Veteran Entrepreneurship Grant Program will give our veterans the tools they need to start their own small businesses right here in Virginia,” stated Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. “Having witnessed first-hand on active duty in the United States Army and now as a pediatrician in Hampton Roads the challenges presented to our military families, I am excited to support legislation introduced by Governor McAuliffe that will give our military children and their parents the full range of health and social services they deserve.”

Joining the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of Defense and Veterans Affairs John Harvey said, “As head of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Working Group that was proposed by the Virginia General Assembly, I was pleased to see that each and every one of our recommendations have been included in Governor McAuliffe’s proposal for the 2017 legislative session. This Governor has delivered time and time again on behalf of our veterans, service members, and their families. The wide-ranging package announced today is just another example of why the Commonwealth is the most veteran and military friendly state in the Union.”

The details of the Governor’s legislative agenda are below:

Legislation to establish a two-year pilot program and create the Virginia Veteran Entrepreneurship Grant Fund

The Governor today announced two bills aimed to facilitate entrepreneurship for returning service members in Virginia. The two-year pilot program will focus on starting and growing veteran businesses in high-demand sectors such as IT, cybersecurity, health care, and agriculture. The Virginia Veteran Entrepreneurship Grant Fund includes $900,000 for Fiscal Year 2018.

Directives to streamline communication and cooperation between civilian child welfare agencies and military authorities

The Governor announced legislation to direct civilian child welfare entities to collect military affiliation as a part of child welfare and neglect cases and to direct those entities to share pertinent case file information for alleged and founded cases with the appropriate military authorities.

Reform and implement comprehensive changes to Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) Program

The Governor announced proposals in response to a December 2015 JLARC report, which identified problems with the VVFS Program’s design and service implementation. The JLARC report recommended that a working group be formed to review VVFS and submit recommendations. The working group recommended several comprehensive changes so that VVFS can better serve our veterans and their families:

•Address the issues identified in the JLARC report;

•Set clear expectations for VVFS;

•Avoid duplication; and

•Make clear that VVFS does not provide direct clinical case management.