Friday, May 4, 2012

Championing benefits for Massachusetts veterans and their families

I joined with my colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus to secure the passage of a series of initiatives designed to assist the Commonwealth’s veterans, active duty service personnel and their families during yesterday's Senate debate on the VALOR Act (Veterans’ Access, Livelihood, Opportunity and Resources). The Senate adopted the bill unanimously on a vote of 38-0.

Every Massachusetts resident owes a huge debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who proudly serve our great nation to preserve the many freedoms we all enjoy but too often take for granted. With Memorial Day fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to show our appreciation than to do everything we can to enhance the educational and employment opportunities available to our veterans and to ensure that the Commonwealth provides for their families’ needs.

Caucus-sponsored amendments approved by the Senate include proposals to:

• Extend the benefits offered through the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund to the families of all active duty members who have served since September 11th whose deaths were directly related to their military service (the original language contained in the VALOR Act applied only to the family members of soldiers killed in action);

• Revise state tax laws to allow veterans with a disability rating of 10 percent or more to retain a $400 property tax exemption, even if they return to active service (current law prohibits veterans from receiving this exemption while they are enlisted, but allows them to defer their taxes until they return from their deployment);

• Enhance veterans’ ability to secure state-issued licensure and certification in a variety of professional trades by counting service members’ military education, training and experience towards the qualifications required for licensure and certification;

• Extend for 90 days the professional trade license of active duty members whose license expires while on duty;

• Provide expedited consideration for veterans’ spouses who apply for state licensure or certification; and

• Allow full-time active duty military personnel to receive and attach to their motor vehicle or motorcycle license plate a distinctive emblem issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles designating their branch of service.

Military families have to endure many personal sacrifices and hardships when their loved ones are deployed for months or years at a time. The provisions adopted by the Senate will offer some measure of support for these families while honoring all of those who serve.

The VALOR Act now heads to the House of Representatives for further action.