MASSACHUSETTS BILLS TO HELP VETERANS

By Bob Katzen

Several bills were the subject of a recent hearing held by the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee including:

VETERANS’ FUNERALS (H 3217) – Requires funeral homes to provide veterans with information about all the funeral and burial benefits available to them.

“Veterans and their families should not be paying out for goods and services from their personal funds for benefits that are due to them which they may not be aware of,” said Rep. Steven Howitt, the sponsor of the bill. “This would ensure that this does not happen.”

PTSD COMMISSION (S 2164) – Establishes a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Commission to annually provide recommendations on how to advance PTSD research, improve its treatment, increase public awareness and recognition of the disease and support its early and accurate diagnosis.

“Increased funding for and awareness of mental health and suicide prevention are among my top priorities at the Statehouse this year,” said the Senate sponsor of the bill Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover). “We know that PTSD touches many lives across the commonwealth, including our veterans, survivors of assault and others recovering from traumatic events. This bill would create a commission at no cost to taxpayers that would ensure that the commonwealth is up to speed on the latest innovations in research and treatment of PTSD, which will directly benefit those suffering.”

HELP VETERANS FIND JOBS AS CIVILIANS (H 3198) – Tasks the Commissioner of Veterans’ Services with helping veterans and individuals serving in the armed forces to find civilian employment based on their skills they developed and used in the military.

Supporters said many veterans either avoid training or are burdened with substantial costs when seeking civilian employment credentials for skills already obtained in the military. They argued that these men and women receive some of the best technical training available and often find that they are required to begin their training all over again at the most basic levels to receive certification or licenses for civilian jobs.

“Our military men and women deserve a smooth transition from the military into the civilian workforce,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn). “This legislation will make it easier for armed forces members and veterans to receive credit for skills obtained during active service and improve opportunities for veterans in finding living-wage employment.”

PROHIBIT PUBLISHING OF NAMES OF VETERANS WHO OWE TAXES (H 3224) – Prohibits cities and towns from publishing the name of a veteran who owes the municipality taxes. Instead, the veterans’ service officer (VSO) of the city or town would contact the veteran privately and provide him or her with information regarding their overdue tax situation. Many cities and towns publish the names of their taxpayers who owe the municipality back taxes.

“[The bill] gives our veterans the respect they deserve when they find themselves facing financial hardship regarding property taxes,” said its sponsor Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham). “We can avoid any public embarrassment and take a more hands-on approach through personal interaction with the VSO for assistance with their tax situation.”

EXEMPT VETERANS FROM RECREATIONAL FEES (S 2176) – Exempts veterans from paying charges and fees, including day-use parking fees and recreation visitor fees, for entrance to public forest lands and public beaches under the control and care of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“Our veterans should be able to use these public spaces free of charge,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “The commonwealth has long been a leader in caring for our veterans and this is another small way for us to try to pay them back for all they’ve done to protect our freedoms.”

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