In this week before our national day for honoring our veterans, the House passed a bill which assists Massachusetts veterans in a number of important ways.
I’ve printed below language from a summary release prepared by the House speaker’s office:
The Massachusetts Medal of Liberty award [created by the legislation] is intended to recognize the ultimate sacrifice of Massachusetts service members and will be presented to the next of kin of service men and women killed in action.
The bill also allows the Commonwealth to partner with Home of the Brave, Inc., a newly-created non-profit organization, to provided new housing for veterans. Home of the Brave will seek to access Federal funding for veterans housing that would have been otherwise unavailable.
. . . [H]onorably discharged veterans will be given the opportunity to substitute appropriate military training and experience in occupational specialties in lieu of current state
permitting, licensing and certification requirements.
Following in the footsteps of the Federal Government, . . . [the] legislation will allow disabled veteran-owned businesses to qualify for state contracts with rights similar to those of women and minority-owned businesses.
The bill also expands the “Welcome Home Bonus” program to give Massachusetts service members expanded access to monetary bonuses upon returning from duty. Under the new provision, service members who perform multiple tours of duty will receive a bonus upon return from each tour. Prior to this legislation, the bonus was only awarded upon a service member’s return from his or her initial deployment.
Additionally, the bill includes voting procedural provisions designed to make it easier for service men and women who are “down range” to vote in Massachusetts elections.
Although the bill offers concrete benefits, apart from the bonus program, the bill’s provisions do not affect the state budget. The bonus program impact is expected to be small. The larger resource commitments are in the Home for the Brave veteran’s housing program, but those resource commitments are private and federal. The state’s role is only an authorizing role.
The only questions about the bill arose from the Home for the Brave program — some were uncertain about whether we were picking a private entity for special benefits. In fact, the federal funding runs to $75 per day for a potential 800 beds, but the initial commitment from Home for the Brave will be for 150 beds. There is room for other good samaritans to come forward and participate.