By U. S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw (Ret.) and originally published in The Virginian-Pilot.
Virginia is the proud home to more than 780,000 veterans who have bravely served our nation and another 89,000 active-duty military members whom we want to settle down here and remain in the commonwealth. Virginia treasures its rich history with our military. Regrettably, we also have an unfortunate but correctable blemish we share with only a few other states — taxing our military veterans.
We join California and Vermont as the only states that fully tax military pensions. That is unacceptable. As the secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, I share Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s vision for making Virginia the best place for our military heroes to pursue the next chapter of their lives. Unfortunately, a large portion of the current active-duty members will leave the commonwealth for a state that allows them to keep more money in their pocket.
Virginia is already a high-cost state and current gas prices and record inflation rates only add to that equation, making it harder for military veterans to retire here. Veteran families, now more than ever, are having to do more to stretch their budgets. While we didn’t serve for the money but rather out of a sense of duty to country, every veteran should be able to take care of their families, and pay for their basic needs.
The governor and I go to work every day to support and serve our veterans with a goal to make Virginia the best place for military service members and their families to pursue the next chapter of their lives. That means working every day to eliminate the bureaucratic red tape that hinders our veterans from successfully migrating into opportunities in law enforcement, teaching and healthcare careers; accelerating and waiving administrative fees for permits and applications for small business start-ups for qualifying veterans; and reducing the barriers to entrepreneurship which would allow more veterans to enter the marketplace. We are also reimagining the way the commonwealth provides the benefits they’ve earned by increasing the number of veteran service officers.
As a veteran, I understand the importance of taking care of those who have dedicated their lives to defending our freedom. I understand firsthand how a veteran’s skill set and experience can translate to civilian life. I know how crucial veterans are to reinvigorating the economic standing of our commonwealth. That is why Youngkin’s commitment to ensure Virginia is competing with neighboring states when it comes to veteran benefits and tax treatment is a keystone to his budget priority. Just last year our neighbor, North Carolina, passed a law to not tax military retirement pay.
The governor called the General Assembly back for a special session last week. There’s unfinished business that transcends politics and partisanship on behalf of our veterans.
During the Special Session, the governor is reminding all legislators and all Virginians what’s at stake. Legislators can help deliver on something long overdue: eliminating the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay. This means that retirees from our armed forces will see a larger refund when they file their state taxes, aiding a smooth transition from military service into the civilian community and a higher quality of life for Virginia’s veterans.
Together we are putting every governor on notice, Virginia will become the No. 1 state for military investment. By taking our competitive profile to a whole new level we will go from the third highest state in the nation with military retirees to the first. We will build on the mutually strong military partnership in and around the commonwealth that is composed of more than 30 major installations, including the Pentagon, the world’s largest naval station, Air Combat Command, Marine Corps Headquarters, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and the Coast Guards Atlantic Command, which includes the nation’s largest concentration of Coast Guard forces.
Veterans have kept our commonwealth and our nation safe. Now, the message from the Youngkin administration is simple: When you come back to the safety of our shores and eventually retire, we want you to retire here in Virginia. I promise to champion your concerns, connect you with resources, get you the care you need and reduce barriers to further employment educational opportunities for you and your families. We will not stop working to make Virginia the best place for our veterans to stay, work and retire.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw is the secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs of the commonwealth.