For Immediate Release - October 21, 2011

AG Coakley Establishes Veterans Task Force to Protect Veterans’ Rights, Enhance Services

Office Has Already Worked To Protect Against Charitable Scams, Provide Resources At Yellow Ribbon Events, Update Consumer Complaint Form To Include Veterans Designation

BOSTON – Helping ensure that Massachusetts veterans and their families have access to the full range of benefits and services offered to them, Attorney General Martha Coakley has created an office-wide task force focused on this effort.

The task force consists of 26 members and includes staff from numerous divisions within the office – including civil rights, consumer protection, and policy advocates. The task force is committed to furthering the AG’s role as a consumer advocate by recognizing the unique needs of veterans through casework, policy, community outreach, and programming.  The office has already begun those efforts, including providing resources to veterans at Yellow Ribbon events across the Commonwealth and updating the consumer complaint forms to include a veterans’ designation.

“With ongoing conflicts overseas and the challenges of today’s economy, providing the necessary services to our veterans and military families is more crucial than ever,” AG Coakley said. “Our office plays a leading role in so many issues – from civil rights to health care to consumer protection. Through this task force, we are able to coordinate the efforts of our office across all those areas and develop initiatives to better serve our veterans.”

The task force, which was created this summer, coordinates resources and services for veterans across the AG’s Office on relevant issues they may face upon returning from deployment overseas, such as consumer, health care, and employment issues. 

In May, the office developed and began using a special designation for veterans and active duty military members on its Civil Rights , Consumer, Insurance/Investment, and Health Care complaint forms.  Working together with the Department of Veterans Services (DVS), front-line employees in the AG’s Office received training on how to best handle complaints with this special designation and learn when it is proper to refer complaints to DVS.

The task force meets monthly with the objective of thinking comprehensively about improving public service to veterans and active duty military members and has identified four goals to execute:

  • Identify legal strategies to support and assist veterans, active military members, and their families through casework;
  • Develop and execute strategies to assist veterans, active military members, and their families though constituent service, educational programming, public policies and outreach;
  • Enhance the AGO’s relationships with state, local, federal, and nonprofit partners to more comprehensively serve veterans, active military members, and their families; and
  • Cultivate internal AGO programs which support veterans, active military members, and their families.

Since the inception of the Veteran’s Task Force, the Attorney General’s Office has updated its Veterans Resource Guide , a comprehensive resource that highlights the many special protections and benefits that are available to veterans.  The Attorney General’s guide offers comprehensive information regarding healthcare, education, employment and housing benefits.

In an effort to protect the public from charitable scams, such as those that portray themselves as veterans’ charities, the Attorney General’s Office issued a consumer alert last month. While the Attorney General’s Office encouraged people to give generously to organizations that help veterans’ causes, donors were informed how to give wisely to ensure the money is spent appropriately and used by legitimate organizations.

This summer, AG Coakley’s Office along with Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray’s Office, and Veteran Affairs Secretary Coleman Nee’s Office sent to all municipal leaders advising them of their obligations under state law to provide a veterans agent.  Also that month, volunteers from the Attorney General’s Office began attending and providing information at Operation Total Warrior Yellow Ribbon events for Massachusetts soldiers. There, as families sent off their loved ones, the AG’s office played a supporting role in letting families and returning soldiers know how to access their rights and benefits.