ON VETERANS DAY, GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNS BILL EXPANDING BENEFITS AND SERVICES TO VETERANS ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS
QUINCY - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - The Patrick-Murray Administration today recognized the service and sacrifice of Massachusetts veterans with the signing of a bill that will expand the benefits and services available to veterans and their families in the Commonwealth.
"The least we can do for our veterans is to provide them the very best opportunities when their service is done," said Governor Patrick. "This law serves as a pledge to Massachusetts veterans that we will continue in our efforts to secure for them the benefits they have earned."
The bill expands on the services presently offered to the Commonwealth's veterans and their families, including increasing the cash bonus available to service members who serve multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently, service members are eligible to receive a one-time $1,000 "Welcome Home" bonus upon returning from a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan ($500 if deployed elsewhere in a non-combat area or after six-months of active duty state-side). This has always been a one-time payment. The bill expands this bonus to provide an additional $500 bonus for each additional overseas deployment. The bill also allows service members stationed abroad to cast electronic ballots for elections.
Additionally, the bill includes a provision citing that service-disabled veterans will be included within the existing preferences for hiring of veterans for construction and public-works contracts. The bill also calls for an establishment of a "Medal of Liberty" that would be awarded to the next of kin of any Massachusetts service member killed in action or who dies as a result of wounds received while in action.
"As the national leader in providing veterans' benefits and services, Massachusetts continues to give our veterans and their families the very best," said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services. "Today, we continue this tradition and give thanks to all of our brave service men and women."
"Our veterans and service members make the selfless decision to stand between us and danger, and it is our job to recognize, remember and support their efforts," said Senate President Therese Murray. "This legislation will allow the Commonwealth to ensure that veterans' and service members' rights are protected, service is acknowledged and benefits are accessible."
"This Veterans Day, we wanted to send a message to our veterans that we care about them and appreciate what they do for our country," said Speaker Robert DeLeo.
"This legislation carries on Massachusetts's tradition of offering the best treatment and services to our veterans," said Representative Harold Naughton, House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.
"I want to thank the Governor, Speaker and Senate President for their united support for this strong bill that will keep our commitment as a Commonwealth to our veterans," said Representative Garret Bradley, a sponsor of the bill.
"It is very important that we fight to help our men and women that have served and fought for us overseas; that we help them on housing issues, job opportunities, mental health issues and honor the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Senator Ken Donnelly, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.
About the Department of Veterans' Services
The Department of Veterans' Services (DVS) advocates on behalf of the nearly 500,000 veterans in Massachusetts, their families, and survivors. DVS works to secure federal compensation and other benefits for which veterans may be eligible. The Department also administers needs-based benefits program through Veterans' Service Officers throughout Massachusetts and provides state funding to organizations offering homeless shelter, transitional housing, and outreach services to veterans.