Senate Approves “BRAVE Act” for Veterans

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The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to pass final language of a bill designed to expand benefits and increase access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families, known as the “BRAVE Act."

Understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home, the Massachusetts Legislature has consistently provided a continuum of major veteran legislation to help with those who sacrifice the most for our freedoms.

“This omnibus veteran’s legislation encompasses some of the very best ideas presented by my colleagues in the legislature and the veterans of the Commonwealth to assist veterans and their families with employment protections, tax exemptions, burial expenses, court programs, medical care, and also continues to recognize those who serve and who have served, said Senator Rush, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.”  “We want to ensure that Massachusetts remains number one in the nation in providing for our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families. This legislation goes a long way in accomplishing this goal.”

“As Senators, one of our most crucial responsibilities is ensuring that our veterans – those that protected us through dangerous times – are themselves protected. As the daughter of a veteran with health challenges, I know how important it is to care for those men and women in uniform after they have served. The BRAVE Act will go a long way to fulfilling our promise to them and to their families, as we continue to lead the nation in caring for veterans. I am exceptionally grateful for the work of Senator Rush and the entire Joint committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs in bringing forward this important bill,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka.

On the recognition front, the legislation designates the 5th day of April as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day and directs cities and towns to designate reserved parking for veterans at all city and town halls.

The bill also grants paid military leave for those called to duty by the armed forces for up to 40 days for training and operation purposes.

To help ease the costs of housing, the legislation changes the requirement for veterans to receive property tax exemptions from residing in the Commonwealth for five years down to two years.  It also increases the amount a veteran can earn on their property tax exemption for volunteering in their city or town.

The BRAVE Act increases the burial expense paid by commonwealth from $2,000 to $4,000 for indigent veterans to receive to adequately provide for a dignified funeral. It also exempts any veterans who receive annuities for service to their country from income calculations when applying for state programs or services.

The bill also:

  • Addresses emergency medical transportation reimbursements
  • Revises the Veteran Court Diversion program
  • Updates the veteran bonus program at the State Treasurer’s Office
  • Directs cities and towns to designate veteran specific parking spaces and city and town halls
  • Exempts any veteran receiving a veterans annuity from declaring such as income for the purposes of calculating eligibility for other state programs and services
  • Provides veterans time off, with or without pay, at the discretion of the employer, for Memorial and Veterans Day so they can take part in ceremonies in their community
  • Establishes several studies and analysis regarding higher education, incarcerated veterans, creditable service and National Guard recognition.

The BRAVE Act, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, is the legislature’s latest effort to support veterans, military members and their families.

Sarah Bldogett