BOSTON – Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) announces today the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed S. 2325 “An Act Relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service, and Enrichment”, also known as The Massachusetts HOME Act.
This legislation expands on the services and benefits for veterans, servicemembers and their families implemented in the Valor Act I in 2012 and Valor Act II in 2014 - legislation that helped Massachusetts become the number one state in the nation for providing for our veterans.
“There are no words that can honor those who have served to the degree they deserve,” said Senator Downing. “This legislation allows us to express our respect and gratitude by enhancing the lives of our veterans and servicemembers when they return home”.
Focusing on housing and long-term support, the passage of the Veterans HOME Act recognizes the sacrifices that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home.
To increase access to housing for veterans, the bill grants veterans preference in admission for scattered site housing units where no low-income family housing was developed. The bill also requires housing authorities to exclude amounts of disability compensation paid by the federal government for the purpose of computing rent of a disabled veteran. In addition, the bill gives eligible veterans preferential placement in housing reserved for the elderly and persons with disabilities in all communities.
The bill provides a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of any soldier, sailor, and member of the National Guard or veteran who suffered an injury or illness during service which was the proximate cause of death. The bill also grants a property tax exemption for veterans who have a 100% disability rating for service-connected blindness.
Other provisions of this Act include:
Expands the Public Service Scholarship to children of any military or service person missing in action and children of prisoners of war;
Allows employees of the Commonwealth who are members of the armed forces reserves and are ordered to service for more than 30 consecutive days to be paid the regular base salary reduced by the amount received as base pay for military service. It also preserves the employee’s seniority or accrued leave time;
Allows cities and towns to appoint a veterans agent for 3 year terms instead of the current 1 year term;
Establishes the Office of Veterans Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans Services to oversee the Soldiers Home in Chelsea and in Holyoke;
Creates a post-deployment commission to study ways to improve services to veterans who have been deployed overseas;
Adds veteran status as a protected class under the statute prohibiting discrimination in employment.
The bill will now be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his signature.