The following is a release from State Sen. Kenneth Donnelly's office:
The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday unanimously passed “The Valor Act” – new legislation that will expand benefits and increase access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families, Senator Ken Donnelly (D Arlington) announced.
As the previous session’s Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, and a recent appointee to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Task Force on Military and Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Donnelly has continued to advocate for issues affecting the Commonwealth’s veterans.
“This bill provides common sense and important measures to ease the transition of our veterans to civilian life,” said Senator Donnelly. “It provides opportunities for gainful employment and successful business ventures. It also provides protections for military children and families, and it will keep Massachusetts number one in the country in benefits and support for our veterans.”
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 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, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, is the legislature’s latest effort to support veterans, military members and their families.
In past years the legislature has passed the Welcome Home Bill so that hundreds-of-thousands of Massachusetts veterans and military families receive better pay, war bonuses, more affordable life insurance, state college tuition waivers and increased annuity payments.
The legislature has also supported the MERIT Plan, providing new property tax and excise tax exemptions for active-duty military and veterans and their families, and has passed additional legislation allowing for increased cash bonuses for those returning from multiple tours of duty and work preferences for disabled veterans.
Senator Donnelly will be traveling to Denver, Colorado this May to attend a meeting of the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans’ Affairs. The task force was created to examine issues affecting military-community relations and the health and well-being of veterans. Among the issues to be covered are: development near military installations; military-community partnerships to respond to mission change; veteran hiring and procurement preferences; mental health, substance abuse and family relationship issues facing returning veterans; and benefits for military personnel, veterans and their dependents.