Ultrino Joins Colleagues to Pass Bill Enhancing Support for Veterans and their Families

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in voting for recently passed veterans legislation with an emphasis on housing and long-term support.

The bill establishes the Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing which will advise the Department of Veterans’ Services and provide oversight for the Commonwealth’s two soldiers’ homes in Chelsea and Holyoke. It creates an Executive Director position to head the new office. The Executive Director will focus on long-term care and will be responsible for the coordinated implementation and enforcement of laws, regulations and policies.

“I am immensely proud and humbled that Massachusetts ranks first in the nation when it comes to military-benefit programs and services,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “It’s so important that we provide comprehensive services for military personnel both while they are on active duty and when they return home. The House recognizes the unique contributions that veterans can make to the economy and the fabric of our society and we want to support that in every way possible”

“Our veterans and active service members give so much to our community and to our nation, but too often they don’t receive the support they need once they return home,” said Representative Ultrino (D – Malden). “This legislation reaffirms Massachusetts’ place as first in the nation in veterans services, and makes real progress in our efforts to better serve our service members and veterans.”

Understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home, the Massachusetts House has consistently provided a continuum of employment, health care, educational and housing support. Correspondingly, this bill increases access to housing authorities for disabled, elderly and potentially unemployable veterans through two provisions. It also updates existing law so that “Veterans Status” is a clearly protected employment category. Currently only active duty personnel are covered.

In addition:

  • Currently only children of Vietnam Era prisoners of war (POWs) are eligible for the Public Service Scholarship. This legislation would extend eligibility to all children of POWs;

  • To accurately reflect the realities of present-day military training, paid public-service leave would now apply to uniformed service officers under this legislation;

  • Extends a total property tax-exemption to service-connected blind veterans who have a 100% disability rating;

  • Fully abates any property taxes due by a surviving spouse following the death or MIA status of a soldier, sailor or member of the National Guard;

  • Extends the Veterans’ Long-term Care Commission and reworks the Post-Deployment Council, both of which were created through the 2014 VALOR Act and focus on housing and support services for veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life.

The bill now goes to the Senate.