RICHMOND, Va. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, updated members of the Virginia General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus and the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations on the Virginia National Guard and discussed the VNG’s legislative initiatives for the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly Jan. 15, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia.
“Providing an update to the Military and Veterans Caucus and the JLC is important because they are key advocates for legislative initiatives that impact our personnel,” Williams said. “The more they understand our mission, accomplishments and challenges, the better they are able to represent our interests.”
The Military and Veterans Caucus is made up of Virginia senators and delegates with a keen interest in legislation that supports currently serving military personnel and veterans in Virginia. The JLC provides a vehicle for veterans service organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to collaborate with the Department of Veterans Services on meeting the needs of Virginia’s veterans.
Williams explained there are two main legislative actions before the General Assembly that impact the VNG: increasing state tuition assistance by $500,000 annually and revamping the pay table used for Soldiers, Airmen and Virginia Defense Force members during emergency response operations on state active duty. The tuition assistance increase and the pay table revamp language were included in Governor Ralph Northam’s budget proposal. Legislation supporting the Governor’s budget language was introduced both in the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate as a JLC priority.
“Our number one priority is meeting and exceeding our end strength goals, and tuition incentives are one of our strongest recruiting and retention tools,” Williams said. “Not only does tuition assistance funding come back to the commonwealth through funds spent at Virginia’s colleges, universities and continuing education courses, but it also increases the skills our Soldiers and Airmen bring to their military jobs.”
The proposed legislation states members of the VNG and VDF receive emergency response pay equal to their rank and years of service, as determined by the Department of Military Affairs. The AG may increase state active duty pay on an annual basis to match any increases in basic pay that are approved at the federal level.
“When our Soldiers, Airmen and VDF members respond on short notice for state active duty in potential dangerous situations, the emergency response pay they receive should be appropriate to their rank and experience,” Williams said.
Another important bill introduced this session would increase the age for citizens to join the VDF on a case-by-case basis. The increase from age 65 to 75 is targeted at bringing in experienced professionals to serve as chaplains, lawyers, nurses and doctors, and provide the opportunity for individuals with significant skill and expertise to augment the VDF’s capabilities.
The VDF is authorized by the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard and serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and community support and are only paid when called to duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
There is also legislation that formally completes moving the Virginia Department of Military Affairs from the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. The move was initiated by a Governor’s executive order last year.
Read the legislation online:
HB 1718: Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force; state active duty for emergency response Introduced by Delegate Nicholas J. Freitas
SB 753: Virginia National Guard; state active duty for emergency response Introduced by Senator Bryce E. Reeves
HB 1253: Virginia Defense Force; maximum age for recruitment Introduced by Delegate Don L. Scott
HB 990: Military Affairs, Department of; change of secretariat Introduced by Delegate David A. Reid
For more information about the JLC, visit the link below: