|By Carley Dangona|
BOSTON – Amended legislation offers improved and continued support to veterans of the Commonwealth.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed VALOR (Veterans’ Access, Livelihood, Opportunity and Resources) Act II to provide more opportunities to military personnel, veterans and their families. Before the bill can become law, Gov. Deval Patrick must sign it.
Last year, the VALOR Act was passed, creating increased supports for veteran-owned businesses, Gold Star Families, military children and higher education access in the Commonwealth such as access to financial assistance for small businesses and opportunities for service-disabled veterans to participate in public projects.
“The update is another way to re-affirm our commitment to our veterans,” Rep. Nicholas Boldyga said. “We need to do what we can to make sure that veterans are taken care of – it’s the least we can do.”
Boldyga said the bill is a follow up that provides additional benefits such as a fee waiver for veterans seeking professional licenses. He explained that determining how to best meet the needs of service men and women is a “fluid process” because “times change” creating new needs for veterans.
The bill also introduced the following benefits:
• Allows students currently enrolled in college, who are called to active duty, to either complete their coursework without penalty following duty, or to withdraw and receive a tuition refund;
• Establishes a post-deployment council to make recommendations and study mental health issues to support military members transitioning to civilian life after deployment;
• Requires the Department of Public Health to issue guidance to acute hospitals and ambulance service providers to ensure the identification of veterans in emergency settings; and
• Extends the award qualifications for the Medal of Liberty and updates criteria to qualify for a Purple Heart, Gold Star and the Support Our Veterans license plates.
The legislation also provides increased property tax relief and enhances employment, educational and healthcare support services. It also establishes a home modification program for veterans to help individuals stay in their homes and function independently.
Boldyga credited veterans for the freedoms that citizens enjoy. He noted it’s important for veterans to receive the respect they deserve for their service and to be afforded benefits that provide medical insurance and employment assistance.
“I’m always honored to and proudest of votes for veterans benefits,” Boldyga said, adding that there are many veterans in his family.
Boldyga recently opened a district office in Agawam, located at Cooper’s Commons, 159 Main St. The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 455-3007.
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