The Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) is an agency within the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services that is authorized under Section 2 of Chapter 115 of the Massachusetts General Laws to assist and advise veterans’ services officers (VSOs) regarding benefits and services for which veterans may be eligible. According to its website,
The mission of the Department of Veterans’ Services is to advocate on behalf of all the Commonwealth’s veterans and provide them with quality support services and to direct an emergency financial assistance program for those veterans and their dependents who are in need.
In addition, DVS represents state agencies and individual veterans before the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in securing compensation and available benefits.
DVS also administers a need-based benefit program, pursuant to Chapter 115 of the General Laws, through VSOs assigned to each municipality in the Commonwealth. Each city or town pays eligible veterans, or their eligible dependents, their monthly benefits1 directly, by check, at the beginning of each month and then requests reimbursement from the Commonwealth for 75% of the benefit amount paid. DVS pays the municipalities quarterly for eligible benefits, a year in arrears. DVS reimbursed local municipalities for Chapter 115 benefits of $40,149,878 in fiscal year 2020 and $39,442,237 in fiscal year 2021.
VSOs are appointed by the mayors or boards of selectmen in cities and towns to accept applications from veterans and their dependents, determine their eligibility for benefits, and file requests for federal benefits. In partnership with VSOs, DVS helps veterans and their families navigate available federal, state, and local programs, benefits, and other resources.
During our audit period, DVS had approximately 60 employees, including managers and support personnel. Its headquarters are at 600 Washington Street in Boston.
Women Veterans’ Network
According to the VA National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, there were approximately 25,000 women veterans living in Massachusetts as of September 30, 2020. The Women Veterans’ Network (WVN), a program within DVS, was established in 1997. According to WVN’s website,
[WVN’s] purpose is to find women who served in the military, some of whom may not be aware that they are veterans and eligible for benefits they have earned through their service. . . .
We provide information on federal, state and local benefits [to women veterans]. Our mission also includes expanding awareness of the needs of women veterans and identifies available resources to meet those needs.
WVN uses a database of information about women veterans in Massachusetts who have joined the network to create a mailing list for its biannual newsletter, which contains information on benefits, programs, resources, and events for women veterans. WVN also emails updates about events and programs between issues of the newsletter. Each year, WVN hosts a Women Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony, where it gives a woman veteran the Deborah Sampson Award.2 In addition, WVN hosts a conference with keynote speakers, workshops, networking opportunities, and a panel on topics that are relevant to women veterans.
WVN is administered by a director, who reports directly to the DVS chief of staff. According to the job description, some of the WVN director’s duties and responsibilities are as follows:
Oversee and maintain a database of over 14,500 women veterans in the Commonwealth. . . .
Conduct aggressive research via informational fairs and workshops, public events and other mediums to expand membership in the Women Veterans’ network.
Collaborate within DVS with other agencies at state, federal and non-profit provider levels that serve women veterans to identify resources, improvements to programs and services to women veterans, particularly in terms of healthcare, counseling, employment, education and housing. . . .
Respond to direct inquiries from women veterans to provide information, referrals and establish linkages with supportive services. . . .
Provide informational updates via email, website, and social network sites on services, programs, and events between newsletters. . . .
Prepare reports as required and requested by the Department of Veterans’ Services, Executive Office of Health [and] Human Services, and the Legislature.
Maintain speaker’s bureau of Massachusetts Women Veterans to enhance awareness of women veterans’ contributions to the Commonwealth and to the Nation.
Maintain library of historical resources on women veterans.
Continue education and awareness of current and emerging issues that impact women veterans. . . .
Meet with [women veterans] in the community to assist with services and benefits.
Maintain WVN Twitter and Facebook sites and outreach programs through social media.
Governor’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans
Section 2 of Chapter 115 of the General Laws requires DVS to “appoint an advisory committee on women veterans to investigate, foster and promote the interests of women veterans.” The committee is required to have at least 11 members, including the following:
- the Secretary of DVS or their designee
- an advisor on women’s issues, appointed by the Governor
- the chair of the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination or their designee
- three members of veterans’ organizations, appointed by the Governor
- a VSO, appointed by the Governor
- four women veterans, appointed by the commissioner of DVS, at least two of whom participate in the VA Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program.3
The advisory committee hosts an annual luncheon to recognize women veterans.
|Date published:||September 27, 2022|