VNG, DMA bills pass during 2020 Virginia General Assembly session

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. provides an update on the Virginia National Guard to members of the Virginia General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus Jan. 15, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

RICHMOND, Va. — A number of bills impacting the Virginia National Guard have passed the Virginia General Assembly during the 2020 legislative session, including bills aimed at increasing tuition assistance, increasing pay for Soldiers on state active duty for emergency response, and increasing the maximum age for Virginia Defense Force member recruitment.

As part of the newly-passed budget, VNG will be allotted an additional $250,000 annually in state tuition assistance, one of the key priorities for the Guard during the 2020 session, according to Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.

“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 when he addressed the Military and Veterans Caucus earlier in the session. “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.”

Senate Bill 753 states members of the VNG and Virginia Defense Force 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. The bill was unanimously passed in both the Senate and House of Delegates, and awaits  Governor Ralph Northam’s signature. 

“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,” said Williams.

The recently-passed budget includes language supporting the  pay table used for Soldiers, Airmen and VDF members during emergency response operations on state active duty. 

The GA also passed House Bill 1253, which will 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.

Legislation to formally complete moving the Virginia Department of Military Affairs from the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs also passed and is ready to be signed by the Governor. The move was initiated by a Governor’s executive order last year.

The final approved budget includes funding for additional Virginia Department of Military Affairs priorities, including funding for the acquisition of land for readiness centers, improvements to fire safety systems in existing readiness centers and construction of a fire station for Blackstone Army Air Field at Fort Pickett.