[ First paragraph effective until May 31, 2012. For text effective May 31, 2012, see below.]
Section 2. The commissioner shall assist and advise veterans' agents in the performance of their duties, investigate, so far as the interests of the commonwealth require, all payments of veterans' benefits, prepare papers and expedite the adjudication of claims, assist claimants in proving their cases, keep a record of work done in his office, and make an annual report.
[ First paragraph as amended by 2012, 108, Sec. 10 effective May 31, 2012. For text effective until May 31, 2012, see above.]
The commissioner shall be a veteran, as defined in clause Forty-third of section 7 of chapter 4 and shall assist and advise veterans' agents in the performance of their duties, investigate, so far as the interests of the commonwealth require, all payments of veterans' benefits, prepare papers and expedite the adjudication of claims, assist claimants in proving their cases, keep a record of work done in his office, and make an annual report.
He shall establish the form of application to be used by applicants for veterans' benefits, may require the annexation thereto of official records of the veteran's induction, enlistment, service or discharge, or attested copies of the same, and shall from time to time provide each city and town with blank application forms prepared by him. He shall adopt such regulations as he may deem necessary to insure the proper administration of the provisions of this chapter, and he may issue and promulgate directives for the guidance of all persons concerned with veterans' benefits or with matters before the Veterans' Administration of the United States government.
The commissioner shall decide all controversies between towns relative to the residence of applicants for veterans' benefits and, subject to the approval of the attorney general, his decisions shall be final. He shall decide any controversies between any applicant and a veterans' agent or part-time veterans' agent relative to the validity or amount of a claim for such benefits. Any claimant veterans' agent or part-time veterans' agent aggrieved by a decision of the commissioner shall have a right to appeal the decision, after due notice, to the division of administrative law appeals established within the executive office of administration and finance pursuant to section four H of chapter seven, hereinafter in this section referred to as "the division''. Any person aggrieved by a decision of the commissioner or by the failure of a city or town to render adequate veterans' benefits or to approve or reject an application for veterans' benefits within forty-five days of receiving such application, or aggrieved by the withdrawal of such benefits, shall also have a right, after due notice, to appeal to the division. A hearing on such appeal held pursuant to this paragraph shall be conducted at a location convenient to the person appealing and shall be conducted as an adjudicatory proceeding under chapter thirty A. The division shall issue its decision within ninety days after the day of the filing of the appeal, except that when an aggrieved person appeals the rejection of his application for veterans' benefits or the failure to act on said application or the failure of a city or town to render assistance to meet an emergency or hardship situation, the division shall render and issue its decision within forty-five days after the date of filing of said appeal. Further review of such decision may be had by any party upon application made to the governor and council within ten days after his receipt of notice of the decision. Whether or not an application for further review is made to the governor and council, the decision of the division, or the decision of the governor and council, if an application for further review is made, shall be subject to judicial review in accordance with the provisions of chapter thirty A. The time for commencing such an action for judicial review shall run from the receipt of notice of the decision of the division, or, in the event that an application for further review is made to the governor and council, from the receipt of notice of the decision of the governor and council. In such an action for judicial review, the record shall consist of (a) the entire proceedings before the division of administrative law appeals and, if applicable, the governor and council, or (b) such portions thereof as the commissioner and the parties may stipulate, or (c) a statement of the case agreed to by the commissioner and the parties.
Upon the written request of the mayor of a city or the selectmen of a town, he shall forthwith investigate any matter relating to the administration therein of the provisions of this chapter and the expenses of such an investigation shall be certified by him to the state treasurer who shall collect the same as an additional tax upon such city or town.
He may, with the consent of the governor, appoint, as occasion may require, one or more disinterested persons who shall investigate any claims against the commonwealth for veterans' benefits, examine any persons to or for whom such benefits have been paid, investigate the reasons for and all matters relating to the granting of such benefits, and shall report their findings to him. The reasonable expenses and compensation of any such disinterested person, if and when approved by the commissioner and allowed by the governor and council, shall be paid by the commonwealth.
He may authorize the payment by a veterans' agent of such sums as he deems necessary to provide special care in a hospital or at any other place for a veteran of the civil war, his wife or widow. On or before November tenth in the year following any expenditure so authorized, the city or town making the same shall be reimbursed by the commonwealth to the extent of seventy-five per cent of such expenditure.
He may, by a written demand signed by him or by his "duly authorized agent'' which term, for the purposes of this paragraph, shall be deemed to include local veterans' agents appointed pursuant to section three, require the treasurer of a savings bank, institution for savings, national bank, trust company, co-operative bank, benefit association, insurance company, savings and loan association under the supervision of the commissioner of banks, federal savings and loan association, credit union or safe deposit company, to inform him of the amounts at any time deposited with such corporation or association to the credit of a recipient of veterans' benefits under this chapter, or an applicant therefor, or at any time withdrawn from such corporation or association by such recipient or applicant, or the amounts loaned to such recipient or applicant for the purchase of real property under the terms of a mortgage and the present balance due thereon, and, in like manner, may require the employer of any such recipient or applicant, or of any child of such recipient or applicant living in his household, to inform him of the amount of money at any time paid by such employer to such recipient, applicant or child, and any treasurer or employer who refuses to furnish such information or who wilfully renders false information in reply to such demand shall forfeit fifty dollars to the use of the commonwealth.
He shall be the agent and attorney of and for all departments, boards and commissions of the commonwealth, including the department of correction and the institutions under its control, in all matters before the Veterans' Administration of the United States government involving any question of federal compensation or pension to which any veteran or dependent under the care or supervision of such departments, boards and commissions may be entitled, and involving any question of reimbursement of the commonwealth for assistance, care, board or hospitalization of any such veteran or dependent. Each such department, board and commission shall notify him, in writing, of all such veterans or dependents who are inmates of any hospital or other institution under the control of such department, board or commission, or otherwise under the supervision of, or in receipt of direct financial assistance from, such department, board or commission. Such notification shall be on forms to be prepared by him and shall contain such information as he may require to enable him to proceed properly in matters of federal compensation or pension for such veterans or dependents, and in matters of reimbursement of the commonwealth for assistance, care, board or hospitalization of such veterans or dependents.
He shall investigate the probabilities of securing such compensation or pension for any such veteran or dependent, and, in furtherance of such investigation, he may require the services of the veterans' agents of the various cities and towns and of the directors of veterans' services of the various cities, towns and districts, and shall prosecute claims for such compensation or pension in behalf of any such veteran or dependent from whom he may secure a power of attorney, in accordance with the regulations of the Veterans' Administration of the United States government. He may co-operate with any responsible veterans' service agency in the prosecution of such claims in behalf of any such veteran or dependent from whom such agency has secured such power of attorney, and he shall prosecute claims for reimbursement of the commonwealth for assistance, care, board or hospitalization of any such veteran or dependent in cases wherein the federal government is responsible for such reimbursement.
He may, by written notice, order a city or town to pay veterans' benefits to an applicant on an application approved by the commissioner. If a city or town refuses or does not make such payment within fourteen days from receipt of such notice he shall notify the state treasurer of such refusal or failure and thereafter such benefits shall be paid to the applicant by the commonwealth. If the commonwealth shall be called upon to pay any such benefits on behalf of any such city or town, the total of any such benefits paid in any such calendar year shall be assessed upon such city or town, or deducted from funds that may be due such city or town from the commonwealth.
He shall appoint an advisory committee on women veterans to investigate, foster and promote the interests of women veterans as defined in section seven of chapter four. The committee shall consist of at least eleven members, one of whom shall be the commissioner or his designee, one of whom shall be a person appointed by the governor as an advisor on women's issues, one of whom shall be the chairman of the Massachusetts commission against discrimination, or his designee, three of whom shall be members of veterans organizations as provided in section eight E of chapter twelve to be appointed by the governor, one of whom shall be a veterans agent to be appointed by the governor, and four of whom shall be women veterans appointed by the commissioner, no fewer than two of whom shall be participants in the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program of the United States Veterans Administration. Any member shall be eligible for reappointment and shall serve without compensation. The terms of appointment shall be coterminous with the governor. The advisory committee may issue annual reports on their activities.