Legislation strengthens 2012 VALOR Act and enhances commitment to Commonwealth’s veterans

(BOSTON) – Representative Aaron Vega (D – Fifth Hampden) joined his colleagues in the Legislature to pass the VALOR Act II which builds upon existing legislation to expand opportunities and services for military personnel, veterans and their families.

“I’m proud to continue supporting our veterans,” said Vega.  “It is the least we can do to facilitate a veteran’s access to services and vital resources after they have given so much for us.”

The legislation provides increased property tax relief and enhances employment, educational and healthcare support services. It creates a home modification program to help injured veterans stay in their homes and function independently, and authorizes the Secretary of Veterans’ Services to establish enhanced training and certification for veterans’ benefits and services officers.

“This legislation sends a message to our veterans that we appreciate their bravery, sacrifice and service,”House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “Most importantly, it aids those who have supported America during some of the country’s most difficult times by providing resources to help them build a bright future. I’m incredibly proud that Massachusetts leads the nation in aiding veterans and military personnel and I believe this bill furthers that commitment.”

“Massachusetts has long led the nation in recognizing and providing for our veterans, and I am proud that this bill will further these efforts,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “By working to expand benefits and services for veterans, we remind our men and women in uniform that their sacrifice does not go unnoticed and that the Legislature will continue to support them both abroad and at home.”

“Thanks to my colleagues in the House, the Senate and on the Committee of Veterans and Federal Affairs, today, with the passage of the VALOR Act II, we as a legislature have done more for our veterans and their families over the past few years than at any other period in last quarter century,” Representative Carlo Basile, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs (D-East Boston) said. “I am very proud of the process we have undergone to craft this bill. This legislation allows us to do our small part in helping those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our way of life. The VALOR Act II is our way to honor veterans, the bravest men and women of the Commonwealth, and offer them in some small manner, our sign of appreciation.”

“This bill expands on Valor Act I to provide benefits and services to our veterans, service members and their families,” said Senator Michael F. Rush (D-West Roxbury), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “This legislature has enacted more meaningful services for our veterans’ community in the past few years than any other legislature in the country.   Our commitment to our veterans and their families has kept Massachusetts at the forefront in providing for those who serve.”

“Supporting our military should not end when service members return home from deployment,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “With a high unemployment rate among veterans, this bill will establish more training programs and career opportunities for those who have already sacrificed so much for our country.”

“This bill reaffirms our state’s commitment to all those who have worn the uniform,” said Mike Sweeney, Legislative Chair for the Massachusetts Veterans’ Service Officers Association. “We owe it to veterans and their families to not only maintain but strengthen these critical services at the local level. The VALOR Act II does this by providing enhanced training for our veterans agents and ensuring that every Massachusetts veteran can go into a city hall and find a knowledgeable veterans agent.”

The bill also includes the below provisions:

  • Allows students currently enrolled in college, who are called to active duty, to either complete their coursework without penalty following duty, or to withdraw and receive a tuition refund;
  • Increases penalties for disturbing military funerals or services;
  • Enacts provisions to guard against charity fraud;
  • Requires the Division of Professional Licensure to waive the initial application or certification fee for licensure for any veteran;
  • Establishes a post-deployment council to make recommendations and study mental health issues to support military members transitioning to civilian life after deployment;
  • Requires the Department of Public Health to issue guidance to acute hospitals and ambulance service providers to ensure the identification of veterans in emergency settings.