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Senate Passes Bill to Support Veterans, Servicemembers and their Families

June 16, 2016

 

veteransVeterans HOME Act continues long-standing commitment to veterans

Today the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2325, An Act Relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service, and Enrichment, the Massachusetts HOME Act. This legislation expands on the commitment the Massachusetts Senate has to our veterans, servicemembers and their families by providing benefits and services.

The passage of the Valor Act I 2012 and Valor Act II in 2014 helped Massachusetts become the number one state in the nation for providing for our veterans.

“I am proud that Massachusetts leads the nation in support for our veterans when they return home,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill provides additional housing, employment, education and other benefits and assistance for veterans and their families, to honor their service to our nation and show our gratitude for the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe.”

Focusing on housing and long-term support, the passage of the Veterans HOME Act continues the strong reputation that Massachusetts has as a leader  in understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home.

To increase access to housing for veterans, the bill grants veterans preference in admission for scattered site housing units where no low-income family housing was developed.  The bill also requires housing authorities to exclude amounts of disability compensation paid by the federal government for the purpose of computing rent of a disabled veteran.  In addition, the bill gives eligible veterans a preference in housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities in all communities, not only the community in which the veteran resides.

To honor the service of veterans and their families, the bill provides a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of any soldier, sailor, and member of the National Guard or veteran who, during active duty service, suffered an injury or illness which was the proximate cause of death.  The bill also gives veterans who have a 100% disability rating for service connected blindness a property tax exemption.

Other provisions of this Act include:

  • The expansion of the Public Service Scholarship to children of any military or service person missing in action and children of prisoners of war;
  • Allows employees of the Commonwealth who are members of the armed forces reserves and are ordered to service for more than 30 consecutive to be paid the regular base salary reduced by the amount received as base pay for military service. It also preserves the seniority or accrued leave time;
  • Allows cities and towns to appoint a veterans agent for 3 year terms instead of the current 1 year term;
  • Establishes the Office of Veterans Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans Services to oversee the Soldiers Home in Chelsea and in Holyoke;
  • Creates a post-deployment commission to study ways to improve services to veterans who have been deployed overseas;
  • Adds veteran status as a protected class under the statute prohibiting discrimination in employment.

The bill will now be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his signature.

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