The House and the Senate worked together to complete before Memorial Day a new bill that continues Massachusetts efforts to treat veterans better than any state in the nation.
There is also a new online resource called Mass VetsAdvisor that helps Veterans locate benefits and programs.
Below is a summary on the Valor Act prepared by the Veteran’s committee.
The bill works on many fronts to help veterans and active military members improve business, educational and housing opportunities. For example, through the formation of public/private partnerships, it facilitates seed money for the start-up and expansion of veteran-owned businesses. It also promotes the participation of disabled-veteran business owners in public construction and design projects.
The legislation also removes certain educational obstacles by requiring the state’s public institutions of higher learning to adopt new policies and procedures for awarding proper academic credit for a student’s prior military training, coursework and experience.
The bill also makes it easier for the children of military personnel to transfer between school districts and states, joining 42 other states in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
To help ease the costs of housing, utilities, medical services and food for Gold Star Families, the bill expands eligibility for the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund. It also eliminates the $2,500 Property Tax Exemption Cap for Gold Star Spouses.
The bill also helps the courts better recognize veterans issues by making sure veterans and service members facing criminal complaints have a properly recorded military history and are considered for diversion and treatment options if eligible.
The Valor Act also does the following:
• Prohibits local hiring authorities from requesting military medical records that are not requested by the Human Resources Department;
• Allows for at least a 90-day license renewal extension for service members returning from active duty for certain Department of Public Safety licenses, such as engineering and firefighter licenses;
• Creates a local option property tax exemption for veterans who volunteer in their community, with a maximum credit rate equal to the minimum wage and a total exemption not exceeding $1000; and
• Directs the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Department of Veterans’ Services, and the soldiers’ homes to study the fiscal impact of designating a non-profit entity as a state soldiers’ home.