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Military families fighting drastic changes to education aid told their stories to a Virginia state task force in Richmond on Monday.

The Virginia Military Survivors & Dependents Education Program offered full tuition forgiveness to spouses and children of soldiers killed or severely disabled while serving. Behind closed doors, Virginia’s bipartisan budget resolution last month drastically changed the eligibility requirements for that benefit, rendering it useless for many who had been promised it.

Hundreds crowded the Virginia War Memorial to explain to the task force the burden the Virginia government has created on the families of soldiers and the families of police officers and other first responders.

The working group includes several state parliamentarians, and they have all stated that they intend to reverse the changes made and fully reinstate the benefits, which they say had been cut due to the rising costs of funding the tuition fee waivers.

The families said they could not believe that lawmakers would tell them their upkeep was too expensive after all the sacrifices they had made for the country.

“Few in the Commonwealth have sacrificed more for this country than the veterans, first responders and families affected by this amendment,” said Gold Star’s wife, Donna Lewis. “The fact that the General Assembly, whose members were largely shielded by the scars of war, did not believe our sacrifices were worthy of a thoughtful, thorough decision-making process before drafting this language feels like institutional betrayal at its cruelest.”

“Our intention is always to do what is best for the state… Has this particular program and what we have done gone wrong? From what we are hearing, it has obviously gone wrong,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Del. Luke Torian.

The General Assembly will reconvene in a special session on June 28 to restore the benefit program to its original state. It is then expected to conduct a long-term sustainability study to determine how best to fund these tuition waivers in the years to come.

Virginia

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