Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 2.2. Administration of Government
Subtitle I. Organization of State Government
Chapter 20. Department of Veterans Services
3/28/2023

Chapter 20. Department of Veterans Services.

§ 2.2-2000. Department of Veterans Services created; appointment of Commissioner.

A. There shall be a Department of Veterans Services, which shall be headed by a Commissioner appointed by the Governor subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. The Commissioner shall be a veteran who has received an honorable discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States. He shall report to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs on behalf of the Governor and shall hold his office at the pleasure of the Governor for a term of five years.

B. The Commissioner shall, under the direction and control of the Governor, exercise powers and perform duties conferred or imposed upon him by law and perform such other duties as may be required by the Governor and the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.

2003, cc. 657, 670; 2004, c. 697; 2018, c. 648.

§ 2.2-2000.1. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Active military, naval, or air service members" means military service members who perform full-time duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or a reserve component thereof, including the National Guard.

"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services appointed pursuant to § 2.2-2000.

"Department" means the Department of Veterans Services established pursuant to § 2.2-2000.

"Service-connected" means, with respect to disability, that such disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.

"Service disabled veteran" means a veteran who (i) served in the active military, naval, or air service, (ii) was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, and (iii) has a service-connected disability rating fixed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Service disabled veteran-owned business" means a business concern that is at least 51 percent owned by one or more service disabled veterans or, in the case of a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity, at least 51 percent of the equity ownership interest in the corporation, partnership, or limited liability company or other entity is owned by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans and both the management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more individuals who are service disabled veterans.

"Veteran" means an individual who has served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.

2018, c. 648.

§ 2.2-2001. Administrative responsibilities of the Department; annual report.

A. The Department shall be responsible to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs on behalf of the Governor for the establishment, operation, administration, and maintenance of offices and programs related to services for Virginia-domiciled veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States and their eligible spouses, orphans, and dependents. Such services shall include, but not be limited to, benefits claims processing and all medical care centers and cemeteries for veterans owned and operated by the Commonwealth.

Subject to the availability of sufficient nongeneral fund revenues, including, but not limited to, private donations and federal funds, the Department shall work in concert with applicable state and federal agencies to develop and deploy an automated system for the electronic preparation of veterans' disability claims that ensures the collection of the necessary information to expedite processing of Virginia veterans' disability claims. The Department's development and deployment work shall be appropriately phased to minimize risk and shall include an initial replacement of the Department's existing case management technology, which replacement is required to support highly sophisticated electronic claims preparation. The Commissioner shall ensure that the system is efficient and statutorily compliant.

B. From such funds as may be appropriated or otherwise received for such purpose, the Department shall provide burial vaults at cost to eligible veterans and their family members interred at state-operated veterans cemeteries.

C. The Department shall establish guidelines for the determination of eligibility for Virginia-domiciled veterans and their spouses, orphans, and dependents for participation in programs and benefits administered by the Department. Such guidelines shall meet the intent of the federal statutes and regulations pertaining to the administration of federal programs supporting U.S. Armed Forces veterans and their spouses, orphans, and dependents.

D. The Department shall adopt reasonable regulations to implement a program to certify, upon request of the small business owner, that he holds a "service disabled veteran" status.

E. The Department shall submit an annual report through the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before December 1 of each year and other reports to the Secretary as required by the Secretary. The annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly shall be submitted for publication as a report document as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents and reports and shall be posted on the General Assembly's website.

2003, cc. 657, 670; 2007, c. 787; 2008, cc. 467, 521, 767, 768; 2009, c. 62; 2010, cc. 84, 554; 2011, cc. 772, 847; 2012, cc. 803, 835; 2013, c. 234; 2018, c. 648.

§ 2.2-2001.1. Program for mental health and rehabilitative services.

A. The Department, in cooperation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, shall establish a program to monitor and coordinate mental health and rehabilitative services support for Virginia veterans and members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service. The program shall also support family members affected by covered military members' service and deployments. The purpose of the program is to, in a cost-effective manner, refer veterans to mental health, physical rehabilitation, and other services as needed to help them achieve individually identified goals and to periodically monitor their progress toward achieving those goals.

B. The program shall, subject to the availability of public and private funds appropriated for such purposes, (i) build awareness of veterans' service needs and the availability of the program through marketing, outreach, training for first responders, service providers, and others; (ii) collaborate with relevant agencies of the Commonwealth, localities, and service providers; (iii) develop and implement a consistent method of determining how many veterans in the Commonwealth are in need of mental health, physical rehabilitation, or other services currently or may be in need of such services in the future; (iv) work with veterans to develop a coordinated resources plan that identifies appropriate service providers to meet the veteran's service needs; (v) refer veterans to appropriate and available providers on the basis of needs identified in the coordinated resources plan; and (vi) monitor progress toward individually identified goals in accordance with the coordinated resource plan.

Coordinated resources plans shall be developed and veterans shall be referred to necessary services in a timely manner. The program shall prioritize veterans served on the basis of the immediacy and severity of service needs and the likelihood that those needs are attributable to the veteran's military service or combat experience.

C. The program shall cooperate with localities that may establish special treatment procedures for veterans and active military service members such as authorized by §§ 9.1-173 and 9.1-174. To facilitate local involvement and flexibility in responding to the problem of crime in local communities and to effectively treat, counsel, rehabilitate, and supervise veterans and active military service members who are offenders or defendants in the criminal justice system and who need access to proper treatment for mental illness including major depression, alcohol or drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or a combination of these, any city, county, or combination thereof, may develop, establish, and maintain policies, procedures, and treatment services for all such offenders who are convicted and sentenced for misdemeanors or felonies that are not felony acts of violence, as defined in § 19.2-297.1. Such policies, procedures, and treatment services shall be designed to provide:

1. Coordination of treatment and counseling services available to the criminal justice system case processing;

2. Enhanced public safety through offender supervision, counseling, and treatment;

3. Prompt identification and placement of eligible participants;

4. Access to a continuum of treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling services in collaboration with such care providers as are willing and able to provide the services needed;

5. Where appropriate, verified participant abstinence through frequent alcohol and other drug testing;

6. Prompt response to participants' noncompliance with program requirements;

7. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of program effectiveness and efficiency;

8. Ongoing education and training in support of program effectiveness and efficiency;

9. Ongoing collaboration among public agencies, community-based organizations and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans and military family support organizations; and

10. The creation of a veterans and military service members' advisory council to provide input on the operations of such programs. The council shall include individuals responsible for the criminal justice procedures program along with veterans and, if available, active military service members.

D. The Department shall report annually program results to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly. The report shall include the number of veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard and Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members affected by covered military members' service and deployments for whom coordinated resources plans are developed and who are referred for services; information about services provided to veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard, members of the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members, including information about the types of services provided and the quality of those services; and the number of veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard, members of the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service, and family members identified by the program as in need of services but not referred for services.

2008, cc. 584, 754; 2009, cc. 813, 840; 2010, c. 58; 2011, cc. 772, 847; 2012, cc. 803, 835; 2017, c. 497; 2018, c. 648.

§ 2.2-2001.2. Initiatives to reduce unemployment among veterans; comprehensive transition program.

A. The Department shall develop a comprehensive program to reduce unemployment among veterans by assisting businesses to attract, hire, train, and retain veterans. Such program shall promote strategies for connecting employers to qualified veterans and include (i) a workforce assessment and training program for participating employers and (ii) a certification process for participating employers with the objective of setting measurable goals for hiring and retaining veterans.

B. All agencies in the executive branch of state government and all public institutions of higher education shall, to the maximum extent possible, be certified in accordance with this section. Such agencies and institutions may request a certification waiver from the Governor if they can demonstrate that (i) the certification is in conflict with the organization's operating directives or (ii) they have in place an alternative program that meets the requirements of this section.

C. The Department shall take steps to promote awareness among veterans of the acceptance by the regulatory boards within the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Department of Health Professions, or any board named in Title 54.1 pursuant to § 54.1-118 of the military training, education, or experience of a service member honorably discharged from active military service in the Armed Forces of the United States, to the extent that such training, education, or experience is substantially equivalent to the requirements established by law and regulations of the respective board for the issuance of any license, permit, certificate, or other document, however styled or denominated, required for the practice of any business, profession, or occupation in the Commonwealth.

D. The Department shall develop a comprehensive program to assist military service members, veterans, and their spouses in making a successful transition from military to civilian life in Virginia. The program shall promote strategies and services for connecting transitioning service members, veterans, and spouses to local, regional, state, and federal employment resources in Virginia, including (i) skills and workforce assessments and (ii) internship and apprenticeship programs. Such program shall prioritize assistance to military service members, veterans, and their spouses who (a) have not sought services under any program authorized under the federal Wagner-Peyser Act, 29 U.S.C. § 49 et seq., and available through the Virginia Employment Commission and (b) are not eligible for job counseling, training, and placement services for veterans and spouses under 38 U.S.C. § 4101 et seq.

2013, cc. 34, 576; 2015, c. 318; 2018, c. 240; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 247.

§ 2.2-2001.3. Virginia War Memorial division.

A. The Virginia War Memorial is established as a division within the Department of Veterans Services. The Virginia War Memorial, its grounds, and all its contents, furnishings, funds, endowments, and other property, now owned or hereafter acquired, are and shall remain property of the Commonwealth. The Commissioner shall maintain administrative and financial control of the Virginia War Memorial and its subsidiaries, including adopting regulations for the use of and visitation to the Memorial. Regulations of the Commissioner shall be exempt from the provisions of the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.).

B. The mission of the Virginia War Memorial shall be to honor patriotic Virginians who rendered faithful service and sacrifice in the cause of freedom and liberty for the Commonwealth and the nation in time of war, honor all of Virginia's veterans, preserve their history, educate the public, and inspire patriotism in all Virginians.

C. The Department shall, with the advice of the Board of Veterans Services, adopt policies governing (i) the programs and activities that may and should be carried out at the Memorial, (ii) the use of and visitation to the Memorial, and (iii) fees for the use of the Memorial.

D. Beginning July 1, 2019, the names and homes of record designation of all Virginians "Killed in Action" (i) as a result of military operations against terrorism, (ii) as a result of a terrorist act, or (iii) in any armed conflict after December 6, 1941, shall be placed on the Shrine of Memory on the grounds of the Virginia War Memorial. New names shall be added to the Shrine of Memory within one year of the date of confirmed death. No individual who does not meet these criteria shall be honored on the Shrine of Memory.

E. The names and homes of record designation of all Virginians "Missing in Action" as a result of the Vietnam War and all other Virginians who served honorably but do not meet the criteria in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of subsection D shall be honored at the Virginia War Memorial.

F. To preserve the dignity of military medals authorized by the U.S. Department of Defense and the memory of those who have rendered faithful service and sacrifice in the cause of freedom and liberty, the Virginia War Memorial division of the Department shall be vested with the full authority to take possession of military medals, ribbons, or certificates that come into the possession of the Commonwealth for which the ownership is unknown until such time as the true owner is able to take possession. The Virginia War Memorial division of the Department shall make reasonable efforts, based on available resources, to determine the rightful owner and return any military medal, ribbon, or certificate that comes into its possession pursuant to this section.

G. The Commissioner shall provide supervision of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation and any other nonprofit corporation established as an instrumentality to provide fundraising for the Memorial and assist in the details of administering the affairs of the Memorial.

2013, c. 234; 2016, c. 690; 2019, cc. 312, 314, 318, 784.

§ 2.2-2001.4. Military medical personnel; program.

A. For the purposes of this section, "military medical personnel" means an individual who has recently served as a medic in the United States Army, medical technician in the United States Air Force, or corpsman in the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard and who was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable.

B. The Department, in collaboration with the Department of Health Professions, shall establish a program in which military medical personnel may practice and perform certain delegated acts that constitute the practice of medicine or nursing in accordance with subsection B of § 54.1-2901 or subsection B of § 54.1-3001. Such activities shall reflect the level of training and experience of the military medical personnel. The supervising physician or podiatrist shall retain responsibility for the care of the patient.

C. Any licensed physician or podiatrist, professional corporation or partnership of any licensee, hospital, commercial enterprise having medical facilities for its employees that are supervised by one or more physicians or podiatrists, or facility that offers medical services to the public and that is supervised by one or more physicians or podiatrists may participate in such program.

D. The Department shall establish general requirements for military medical personnel, licensees, and employers participating in the military medical personnel program established pursuant to subsection B.

E. The Department shall assist veterans and other service members who are preparing for discharge or release and who have recently served in health care-related specialties but who do not meet the definition of "military medical personnel" in finding employment in the health care sector.

2016, cc. 212, 418; 2018, cc. 69, 338; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 231.

§ 2.2-2001.5. Assignment of right to receive veterans' benefits.

A. As used in this section:

"Assignment of right to receive veterans' benefits" means any financial transaction in which a person provides a cash payment to a veteran in consideration for the veteran's assignment of his right to receive future pension or retirement benefits, without regard to whether the transaction is characterized or structured as a loan, assignment, loan secured by assignment, pledge, or other arrangement.

"Pension or retirement benefits" means any periodic benefit payable to a veteran by an agency of the federal government on account of the veteran's service in the Armed Forces of the United States, including any military retirement, pension, or disability benefit payments.

B. No person shall advertise, arrange, offer, or enter into any assignment of right to receive veterans' benefits if such assignment of right to receive veterans' benefits is prohibited or void under the provisions of 37 U.S.C. § 701 or 38 U.S.C. § 5301(a).

C. A violation of this section constitutes a prohibited practice under the provisions of § 59.1-200 and shall be subject to any and all of the enforcement provisions of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (§ 59.1-196 et seq.).

2020, c. 438.

§ 2.2-2001.6. Eligibility for veteran status under state and local laws; change in treatment of certain discharges.

Any person who was separated from active military, naval, or air service with an other than honorable discharge due solely to such person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression may petition the Department to have his discharge recorded with the Department as honorable. Persons whose discharge status is changed pursuant to such petition shall be afforded the same rights, privileges, and benefits authorized by state law and local ordinances as any other veteran who was honorably discharged.

2020, c. 1172, § 2.2-2001.5.

§ 2.2-2002. Department offices.

The Commissioner shall maintain an office in the vicinity of the State Capitol in Richmond. He may maintain service offices in the Commonwealth in whatever locations he determines to be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. The Commissioner shall ensure that benefit claims assistance is provided on a regular basis at locations other than established service offices.

2003, cc. 657, 670; 2005, c. 888; 2009, c. 136.

§ 2.2-2002.1. Department personnel.

The Commissioner shall appoint the personnel assigned to each service office and determine the compensation to be paid to such personnel. The number of employees assigned to the processing of benefit claims shall be sufficient to maintain a ratio of one staff person for every 23,000 veterans residing in the Commonwealth.

2005, c. 888; 2009, c. 136; 2011, cc. 330, 358; 2012, cc. 331, 342.

§ 2.2-2002.2. Military Spouse Liaison; position created; duties; report.

A. There is created in the Department of Veterans Services the position of Military Spouse Liaison to conduct outreach and advocate on behalf of military spouses in the Commonwealth.

B. The Military Spouse Liaison shall:

1. Provide assistance and information to military spouses seeking professional licenses and credentials or other employment in the Commonwealth;

2. Coordinate research on issues facing military spouses and create informational materials to assist military spouses and their families;

3. Examine barriers and provide recommendations to assist military spouses in accessing high-quality child care and developing resources in coordination with military installations and the Department of Education to increase access to high-quality child care for military families;

4. Develop, in coordination with the Virginia Employment Commission and employers, a common form for military spouses to complete, highlighting specific skills, education, and training to help military spouses quickly find meaningful employment in relevant economic sectors; and

5. Perform any other duties or responsibilities assigned by the Commissioner.

C. The Military Spouse Liaison shall submit an annual report, including any legislative recommendations, through the Commissioner to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly on or before December 1 of each year and other reports to the Commissioner as required by the Commissioner.

2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 309.

§ 2.2-2003. General powers of Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall have the following general powers to carry out the purposes of this chapter:

1. Employ required personnel;

2. Enter into all contracts and agreements necessary or incidental to the performance of the Department's duties and the execution of its powers under this chapter, including, but not limited to, contracts with the United States, other states, and agencies and governmental subdivisions of the Commonwealth;

3. Accept grants from the United States government and its agencies and instrumentalities and any other source. To these ends, the Department shall have the power to comply with conditions and execute agreements necessary, convenient, or desirable; and

4. Do all acts necessary or convenient to carry out the purposes of this chapter.

2003, cc. 657, 670.

§ 2.2-2004. Additional powers and duties of Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall have the following powers and duties related to veterans services:

1. Perform an annual cost-benefit and value analysis of (i) existing programs and services and (ii) new programs and services before establishing and implementing them and report the results of such analysis to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs;

2. Seek alternative funding sources for the Department's veterans service programs;

3. Cooperate with all relevant entities of the federal government, including, but not limited to, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Labor in matters concerning veterans benefits and services;

4. Appoint a full-time coordinator to collaborate with the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations created in § 2.2-2681 on ways to provide both direct and indirect support of ongoing veterans programs, and to determine and address future veterans needs and concerns;

5. Initiate, conduct, and issue special studies on matters pertaining to veterans needs and priorities, as determined necessary by the Commissioner;

6. Evaluate veterans service efforts, practices, and programs of the agencies, political subdivisions or other entities and organizations of the government of the Commonwealth and make recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly on ways to increase awareness of the services available to veterans or improve veterans services;

7. Assist entities of state government and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth in enhancing their efforts to provide services to veterans, those members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves who qualify for veteran status, and their immediate family members, including the dissemination of relevant materials and the rendering of technical or other advice;

8. Assist counties, cities, and towns of the Commonwealth in the development, implementation, and review of local veterans services programs as part of the state program and establish as necessary, in consultation with the Board of Veterans Services and the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, volunteer local and regional advisory committees to assist and support veterans service efforts;

9. Review the activities, roles, and contributions of various entities and organizations to the Commonwealth's veterans services programs and report on or before December 1 of each year in writing to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly on the status, progress, and prospects of veterans services in the Commonwealth, including performance measures and outcomes of veterans services programs;

10. Recommend to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly any corrective measures, policies, procedures, plans, and programs to make service to Virginia-domiciled veterans and their eligible spouses, orphans, and dependents as efficient and effective as practicable;

11. Design, implement, administer, and review, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, special programs or projects needed to promote veterans services in the Commonwealth;

12. Integrate veterans services activities into the framework of economic development activities in general;

13. Manage operational funds using accepted accounting principles and practices in order to provide for a sum sufficient to ensure continued, uninterrupted operations;

14. Engage Department personnel in training and educational activities aimed at enhancing veterans services;

15. Develop a strategic plan to ensure efficient and effective utilization of resources, programs, and services;

16. Certify eligibility for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program and perform other duties related to such Program as outlined in § 23.1-608; and

17. Establish and implement a compact with Virginia's veterans, which shall have a goal of making Virginia America's most veteran-friendly state. The compact shall be established in conjunction with the Board of Veterans Services and supported by the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations and shall (i) include specific provisions for technology advances, workforce development, outreach, quality of life enhancement, and other services for veterans and (ii) provide service standards and goals to be attained for each specific provision in clause (i). The provisions of the compact shall be reviewed and updated annually. The Commissioner shall include in the annual report required by this section the progress of veterans services established in the compact.

2003, cc. 657, 670; 2008, cc. 467, 768; 2010, c. 534; 2011, cc. 780, 858; 2012, cc. 803, 835; 2013, c. 234; 2014, cc. 115, 490; 2018, c. 648.

§ 2.2-2004.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2011, cc. 89 and 147, cl. 2.

§ 2.2-2004.2. Suicide Prevention Coordinator; position created; duties; report.

A. There is created in the Department of Veterans Services the position of Suicide Prevention Coordinator to support and closely coordinate effective mental health care services for military service members and veterans and their families.

B. The Suicide Prevention Coordinator shall:

1. Gather data on mental health challenges commonly experienced by military service members and veterans and their families that may lead to suicide;

2. In coordination with federal, state, and local partners, gather, review, analyze, and disseminate timely federal, state, and local data on the quantity, common causes, and methods of suicide utilized among military service members, veterans, and their family members;

3. Collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase mental health, substance abuse, and suicide risk screenings and refer military service members and veterans and their family members to the appropriate behavioral health and medical professionals or services;

4. Identify and coordinate new behavioral health and suicide prevention opportunities and funding for those opportunities and, from such funds as may be appropriated or are otherwise available for this purpose, administer a grant program to assist local partners in implementing and coordinating suicide prevention efforts in local communities;

5. Provide suicide prevention resources, training, and support to federal, state, and local agencies; and

6. Perform other duties as may be required to effectively provide suicide prevention resources, training, and support to military service members, veterans, and their families.

C. The Commissioner shall include a summary of the work of the Suicide Prevention Coordinator in the annual report to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, the Governor, and the General Assembly as required pursuant to subdivision 9 of § 2.2-2004.

2022, c. 322.