For Immediate Release - November 16, 2011

Lt. Governor Murray, Attorney General Coakley, Secretary Nee Host Discussion on the State of Veterans’ Services

Will Publish Report on Findings and Recommendations for Improvement

BOSTON – Emphasizing the important contribution by Massachusetts’ veterans and their families, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Department of Veteran Services Secretary Coleman Nee presided over a special forum Tuesday morning at the State House focused on improving veterans’ services.  The forum, which included leaders in the veterans’ community, examined how the Commonwealth can ensure that veterans have access to the full range of benefits and services offered to them.

“The Patrick-Murray Administration continues to work with the Attorney General’s Office, veterans’ advocates and service providers to increase awareness about available resources and benefits military servicemen and women and their families have rightfully earned,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray, who also chairs the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services.  “By convening this forum, we have put a range of issues on the table, received immediate feedback from panelists and participants, and look forward to developing recommendations that will improve services for Massachusetts veterans.”

“We have been working closely with the Lieutenant Governor and the Department of Veterans Services to ensure that our office, and the Commonwealth overall, provide the highest quality of care and support to our veterans,” said AG Coakley.  “Our hope is to take what we learn and put those best practices into action because our veterans and their families deserve nothing less.”

“These types of forums and public events offer all of us in state government an opportunity to better collaborate and bring the full power of our combined resources to bear in assisting and supporting our veterans and their families,” said Secretary Nee.  “On behalf of our current and former servicemembers, all of us at the Department of Veterans’ Services appreciate the outstanding efforts and dedication of Lt. Governor Murray, Attorney General Coakley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby.”  

The veterans’ forum drew more than 200 attendees, including nonprofit organizations, staff from area colleges and academic institutions, corporate hiring departments, representatives from across state and local government, and leaders in the public safety and criminal justice community.    Discussions focused around successful model practices currently taking place across the Commonwealth with the goal of furthering the dialogue between public, private, and nonprofit partners about how to address challenges in caring for military veterans and their families.  Veterans’ leaders also discussed many of the challenges involving access to education, employment, workforce training, and mental health and suicide prevention efforts.

Lt. Governor Murray, AG Coakley and Secretary Nee moderated three panels on: Education, Employment and Workforce Training; Mental Health and Suicide Prevention; and Veterans and the Criminal Justice System.  Leaders from various industries came to speak on the following panels:

Education, Employment and Workforce Training

  • William Lachenmeyer, Vice President of Human Resources, Smith and Wesson-Representing Employer of Veterans
  • Cynthia Shelton Harris, Director, Veterans Center at Bunker Hill Community College-Representing the College Community
  • Kevin J. Madden, Director, South Coastal Career Development Administration, Representing Massachusetts Career Centers

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

  • Dr. Naomi Simon, Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program
  • President Nicholas Covino, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
  • Brenda Kline, LICSW, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Bedford VA

A special panel moderated by AG Coakley this morning highlighted programs across the Commonwealth relative to veterans in the criminal justice system. The panel was made up of court and public safety officials in their capacity as key first responders to the needs of veterans.

Veterans and the Criminal Justice System

  • Judge Paul LoConto, Presiding Justice, Worcester District Court
  • Maureen Chamberlain, Chief Probation Officer, Worcester District Court
  • Debra A. Pinals, M.D., Assistant Commissioner of Forensic Mental Health Services
  • Deputy Chief Craig W. Davis, Framingham Police Department,
  • Dr. Sarah Abbott, Advocates, Inc.

For more information about the Department of Veterans' Services (DVS), including affordable, home loans for veterans, employment and training, Chapter 115 Benefits, education, a 24 hour suicide prevention and benefit referral hotline run by DVS, and a range of additional services and benefits, visit www.mass.gov/veterans.

AG Coakley has created an office-wide task force focused in order to ensure that Massachusetts veterans and their families have access to the full range of benefits and services offered to them. 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. AG Coakley’s Office has also updated its Veterans Resource Guide, a comprehensive resource that highlights the many special protections and benefits that are available to veterans.  The guide offers comprehensive information regarding healthcare, education, employment and housing benefits.

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