RD113 - Virginia Military Advisory Council 2013 Annual Report
The Virginia Military Advisory Council (VMAC) was created as an advisory council to maintain a cooperative and constructive relationship between the Commonwealth and the leadership of the Armed Forces of the United States and the military commanders of such Armed Forces stationed in the Commonwealth, and to encourage regular communication on continued military facility viability, the exploration of privatization opportunities and issues affecting preparedness, public safety, and security.
The VMAC was composed of thirty-seven (37) members representing military, legislators, private partners, and executive leadership from the Commonwealth. The Council is led by a senior military officer selected among its membership and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security. The House of Delegates and Virginia Senate each appointed members to serve on the VMAC during 2013. As a result of changes in the normal rotation of installation commanders, seven new members joined the VMAC in 2013.
Rear Admiral Townsend (Tim) G. Alexander, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, continued to serve as the Military Leader until his reassignment in July 2013. Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, who replaced him as Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, also took the responsibility as the Military Leader for the VMAC.
In 2013 the VMAC took the lead in recommending the individual to be appointed by the Governor as the Military Installation Representative to the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children. Ms. Tammy Smith the School Liaison for Marine Corps Base Quantico was recommended to fill this position. She will keep the VMAC informed on any issues affecting military school aged children which require are addressed by the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children.
Due to Department of Defense (DoD) travel restrictions resulting from significant defense budget reductions and sequestration, there were only two (2) VMAC meetings during the year. The last meeting, December 2013, was scheduled such that members of the McAuliffe Transition Team could attend. During this meeting each installation commander provided information for the Transition Team on the significance of the military to Virginia's economy. Based on the information provided by the commanders there are approximately 264,000 individual employed at the military installations (146,000 military; 87,000 DoD civilians, and 30,500 contractors). They estimated an economic impact to the Commonwealth, based on salaries, is in excess of $20 billion. A consolidated copy of the briefings is attached.
Quality of Life Issues
The Secretary of Defense annually distributes a list of Ten Key Quality of Life Issues Supporting Service Members and Families. These issues surrounding quality of life and family well-being can best be addressed by states. The Department of Defense-State Liaison Office (DSLO) has worked with the VMAC to educate state policymakers, and other state leaders, about the needs of military members and their families. The overarching goal is to work together to remove unnecessary barriers, and significantly improve the quality of life for military families. See the attachment, "Key Personnel and Readiness Issues Supporting Service Members and Families."
Virginia continues to be a leader among the states on quality of life initiatives to support the military; we continue to work on several of the Secretary of Defense's key issues. During the 2013 General Assembly session, the VMAC supported the following approved legislation to continue to improve the quality of life for the military community.
Eligibility for in-state tuition charges; military - Clarifies eligibility for in-state tuition of current and former military personnel and their dependents. The bill also clarifies the intent of the legislature that veterans, be immediately eligible for in-state tuition rates at Virginia colleges and universities.
In-state tuition; active duty members - Allows any active duty member, activated guard or reservist member, or guard or reservist member mobilized or on temporary active orders for six months or more to pay no more than the in-state tuition rate to attend a public institution of higher education if he resides in Virginia. Currently, such an individual is required to be stationed or assigned to work in Virginia and reside in Virginia to receive the rate of no more than in-state tuition.
Higher education; in-state tuition for military dependents - Expands eligibility for in-state tuition to certain dependents of active duty military personnel, or activated or temporarily mobilized reservists or guard members, who are either (i) assigned unaccompanied orders and immediately prior to receiving such unaccompanied orders were assigned to a permanent duty station or workplace geographically located in Virginia, or in a state contiguous to Virginia or the District of Columbia, and resided in Virginia or (ii) assigned unaccompanied orders with Virginia listed as the designated place move.
Participation in interscholastic programs; students residing on a military or naval reservation - Requires any student who resides on a military or naval reservation with military-owned housing located wholly or partly within the geographical boundaries of multiple school divisions to be deemed eligible for interscholastic programs immediately upon enrollment in a public elementary or secondary school in any of the aforementioned school divisions as opposed to only the school division their military housing is physically located within. This is under the condition that the student: (i) satisfy all other requirements for eligibility and (ii) are dependents of a military service member required by the military to live on the military installation as evidenced by a statement on command letterhead signed by, or by direction of, the service member's commanding officer. This addresses a specific problem at Langley AFB.
Participation in public school interscholastic programs by students in military families - Prohibits public elementary or secondary schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student (i) who moved out of the school's attendance area because his parent is a full-time, active duty member of the uniformed services and received orders to relocate and who subsequently moved back into the school's attendance area or (ii) who continues to live in the school's attendance area but whose parent moved out of the school's attendance area because that parent is a full-time, active duty member of the uniformed services and received orders to relocate. The bill does not affect a school board's discretion to admit a student and charge tuition for his attendance at a public school in the local school division if the student is not deemed to reside in the local school division.
Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Fund; amount of financial assistance - Specifies that qualified survivors and dependents are eligible for financial assistance from the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Fund in an amount up to $2,000 or as provided in the appropriation act for board and room charges, books and supplies, and other expenses at any public institution of higher education or other public accredited postsecondary institution granting a degree, diploma, or certificate in the Commonwealth.
Firearms; residency of armed forces members - Provides that residency for members of the armed forces for the purpose of firearms purchases in the Commonwealth shall include both the member's permanent duty post and the nearby state in which the member resides and from which he commutes to the permanent duty post.
Planning and zoning; effects of development on military installations - Requires any local planning commission to consult with the commander of a military installation that will be affected by development within the locality in order to reasonably protect the installation against potential adverse effects of development.
Municipal deed restrictions on certain property in Virginia Beach - Provides that certain deed restrictions shall include the ability to enter into public-private partnerships with nonprofit entities that provide services for the benefit of veterans and disabled persons.
Department of Veterans Services; programs to reduce unemployment among veterans - Provides for the Department of Veterans Services to develop a comprehensive program to reduce unemployment among veterans by assisting businesses to attract, hire, train, and retain veterans.
Veterans care center; construction in Northern Virginia - Authorizes the Governor to request federal funds to construct a new veterans care center in Northern Virginia, and requires the State Treasurer to issue a short-term treasury loan in an amount up to $28.5 million for the state share of construction costs, once the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has determined that federal funds will be allocated for the new center.
Constitutional amendment (first reading); real property tax exemption for spouses of soldiers killed in action - Provides that the General Assembly may provide a real property tax exemption for the primary residence of surviving spouses of members of the military who are killed in action. Such tax exemption may not be claimed by a surviving spouse who has remarried.
Certificate of public need; amendment of charity care provisions upon expansion of the state program of medical assistance - Provides that the Commissioner of Health may accept and approve requests for amendments to certain conditions of existing certificates of public need. The bill also requires the Department of Health, in consultation with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, Virginia Health Information Exchange, Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and other industry stakeholders, to review the provisions of § 32.1-102.4 as amended by this act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148, as both relate to the Commissioner's imposition of conditions on certificates of public need.
DMV; customer service - Modifies requirements for (i) release by DMV of vehicle title information, (ii) automated electronic payments to the DMV, (iii) temporary motorcycle operator licenses, and (iv) deactivation, extension, and reactivation of vehicle registration. This bill also allows DMV to issue veteran ID cards.
Special license plates - Authorizes the issuance of special license plates for active duty members, retirees, or honorably discharged veterans with six months of service in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Air Force.
Boating safety education - Exempts United States Navy qualified surface warfare officers or qualified enlisted surface warfare specialists from having to pass a boating safety education course in order to operate a motorboat.
Memorialization of fallen Virginians at the Virginia War Memorial - Legislates criteria, as was required by legislation adopted in 2009, for inclusion on the Shrine of Memory at the Virginia War Memorial of Virginians who died while serving in the armed forces.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security; powers and duties - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to work with veterans services organizations and counterparts in other states to monitor and encourage the timely and accurate processing of veterans benefit requests by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Oceana/Fentress Advisory Council:
The Oceana/Fentress Advisory Council met on June 7, 2013, to provide an update to all Council members and to receive a status report from Oceana Naval Air Station and progress reports from the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Both cities continue to demonstrate strong support for Oceana Naval Air Station and are taking steps to continue addressing encroachment.
The Council recognizes the importance of the military missions to the Virginia economy and strongly encourages the VMAC to continue to educate Virginia leaders of such.
a. The Governor hosted the fourth annual reception for members of the VMAC and Senior Commanders, or civilian equivalents, to express the gratitude the Commonwealth has for the military community.
b. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security and staff have participated in more than forty-five (45) official events at military installations which vary from office calls with senior military leaders to attendance at official meetings or events. These visits reinforce the constructive relationships which have developed over the years between the Commonwealth and the military community.
c. During the scheduled VMAC meetings, there were presentations on a variety of subjects beneficial to the installations such as:
a. A presentation by the Department of Motor Vehicles on on-going programs.
i. "Troops to Trucks Program" - This program puts veterans and serving National Guard and Reserve members to work in transportation jobs. "Troops to Trucks" makes it easier for military personnel to obtain a Virginia commercial driver's license (CDL) by waiving CDL skills testing for service men and women with appropriate experience operating large vehicles as a part of their duties. It provides for on-base commercial motor vehicle training for those without this experience as well as on-base opportunities for completing the written and skills test portions of the CDL application process. Over 200 service members have been awarded CDL during the past year.
ii. There are already two DMV offices on military installations - the Pentagon and Fort Lee. The DMV is working on adding sites at Fort Belvoir and Naval Station Norfolk in the near future.
iii. There are DMV Mobile Assistance Centers available to be deployed to the base on a temporary basis. The DMV has transformed five RV style vehicles into Customer Service Centers on Wheels. To date, DMV has visited all military facilities in Virginia willing to host the mobile units, including: the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Fort Lee, Langley Air Force Base, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Norfolk Naval Base, and Fort Belvoir, with many more scheduled. Commanders can work directly with DMV Headquarters, or through the VMAC to make arrangements for the mobile center.
iv. Service Members and their spouses can be exempted from taking state testing for a motorcycle license by providing proof they took the military's motorcycle safety test.
v. Service members can cancel vehicle insurance and request a temporary suspension of a vehicle license when deployed and the vehicle is not in use. This can result in a significant cost savings to service members.
b. A briefing by "Army One Source" which is a DoD initiative developed to standardize the services and delivery of support to Soldiers and families regardless of component or area. The program focuses on support in the areas of behavioral health, financial and legal matters.
c. Mr. Justin Riemer, Deputy Secretary, State Board of Elections, provided a brief on Federal Voting Assistance and the "Boots to Ballot" initiative. The purpose was to provide the installation commanders with as much information as possible to ensure all service members and their families had information to assist in voting.
d. The Virginia Department of Veterans' Services provided a briefing on the Post Transition - Virginia Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which was initiated during 2013. The Virginia TAP has been successful in supplementing what DoD is doing at the installations. The program has provided another valuable resource to service members and their families as they complete their military obligation.
Over the past year, the VMAC has continued to work together on legislative agenda and quality of life issues that benefited service members and their families. The Council continues to foster a collaborative working environment with military leadership with the Commonwealth and the Office of the Governor. Over the years, the benefits to the military community have excelled and have remained extremely valuable. As potential Department of Defense cuts for the future may negatively impact the Commonwealth, it is critical to maintain this valuable line of communication with military leaders in the Commonwealth.