My Amendments to Expand Benefits for National Guard members and Reserves are included in the Legislation
On Thursday May 4, The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed “The Brave Act” – new legislation that will expand benefits and increase access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families, Senator Mike Rush (D-West Roxbury) announced.
I wholeheartedly support the BRAVE act as it will improve the benefits and services to the men and women of our Commonwealth on active duty, veterans who served their country with distinction, and their families. In that spirit, I believe we should expand the current motor vehicle excise tax exemption for active members to those in the reserves. I also believe we should expand the definition of ‘veteran’ to include those who have served in the National Guard and Reserves, as many serve on the front lines during natural disasters and are deployed overseas. Their service should be honored in the same way we honor those on active duty.
I was successful in securing passage of two amendments to the BRAVE Act. The first amendment expands the current exemption from the motor vehicle excise tax, in place for those who are on active duty, to include reserve members who serve for at least 180 days outside of Massachusetts in a calendar year. When Massachusetts military reserve members are called up to serve and help in a natural disaster or any type of military deployment, they will be eligible to receive excise tax relief for the year they serve.
My second amendment requests a study to look at expanding the current definition of “veteran” to include National Guard and Reserve personnel. The amendment requests the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of Administration and Finance, and the Secretary of Public Safety and Security study the feasibility and the costs surrounding such an expansion.
Understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home, the Massachusetts Legislature has consistently provided a continuum of major veteran legislation to help with those who sacrifice the most for our freedoms.
“This omnibus veteran’s legislation encompasses some of the very best ideas presented by my colleagues in the legislature and the veterans of the Commonwealth to assist veterans and their families with employment protections, tax exemptions, burial expenses, court programs, medical care, and also continues to recognize those who serve and who have served, said Senator Rush, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.” “We want to ensure that Massachusetts remains number one in the nation in providing for our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families. This legislation goes a long way in accomplishing this goal.”
“The BRAVE Act exemplifies Massachusetts’ commitment to the men and women who serve our country,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “Veterans have dedicated their lives to service and it is our responsibility to ensure that they can continue to thrive back home. This legislation builds upon Massachusetts’ legacy of supporting veterans, and I want to thank Senator Rush for his service and his leadership on this bill.”
In addition, the legislation designates the 5th day of April as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day and directs cities and towns to designate reserved parking for veterans at all city and town halls.
The bill also grants paid military leave for those called to duty by the armed forces for up to 40 days for training and operation purposes.
To help ease the costs of housing, the legislation changes the requirement for veterans to receive property tax exemptions from residing in the Commonwealth for five years down to two years. It also increases the amount a veteran can earn on their property tax exemption for volunteering in their city or town.
The BRAVE Act increases the burial expense paid by commonwealth from $2,000 to $4,000 for indigent veterans to receive to adequately provide for a dignified funeral. It also exempts any veterans who receive annuities for service to their country from income calculations when applying for state programs or services.
The bill also addresses the following by:
- Addressing emergency medical transportation reimbursements;
- Revising Veteran Court Diversion programs;
- Updating the veteran bonus program at the State Treasurer’s Office, and;
- Provides several studies and analysis regarding higher education, incarcerated veterans, and National Guard recognition.
The BRAVE Act, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, is the Senate’s latest effort to support veterans, military members and their families.