SECTION 1. Chapter 115 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting the following after Section 3A:—
Section 3B. A person who receives an appointment as a veterans’ agent or as an assistant veterans’ agent on a full-time or permanent part-time basis in a city or town shall satisfactorily complete an annual prescribed course of study for veterans’ agents which shall be approved by the secretary of the department of veterans’ services and offered at a time to be determined by the secretary. Upon petition to the secretary by the appointing authority, a person appointed as a veterans’ agent or as an assistant veterans’ agent, on a full-time or permanent part-time basis, in a city or town, may be exempted by the secretary from the requirements of this section before exercising veterans’ agent duties while that person is awaiting training as prescribed in this paragraph.
The secretary shall establish standards for the training and support of veteran service officers and agents consistent with the requirements of this paragraph. During the period of employment, a person holding a veterans service officer or agent certificate pursuant to this section shall be under the direct supervision of the mayor, town manager, board of selectmen, or regional district board or others who shall regularly observe and evaluate the performance of assigned duties by veterans service officer or agent.
The secretary shall promulgate regulations to ensure local veteran service officers and agents, appointed under section 3 of this chapter, are trained and certified. Veteran service officers and agents shall be trained and certified within twelve (12) months of appointment pursuant to section 3 of this chapter. Veterans service officers and agents currently appointed pursuant to section 3 of this chapter shall be shall be certified within (12) months of the date said regulations are promulgated. Certification must be renewed every year. To be eligible for certification as a veterans service officer or agent, the candidate shall (1) be appointed locally pursuant to MGL chapter 115, section 3; (2) attend a mandatory annual training as formulated by the secretary and approved by the Massachusetts veterans’ service officers association and Massachusetts municipal association. The secretary shall make testing available at the mandatory annual training and shall provide a reasonable schedule of make-up training and testing; (3) pass a test every three (3) years established by the secretary in conjunction with the Massachusetts veterans’ service officers association, which shall demonstrate the core knowledge to effectively represent veterans which shall include, but not be limited to the following areas of knowledge: the chapter 115 program, federal and local benefits, including employment, education, health care, retirement and other veterans’ benefits; and alternative resources, including those which are partially or wholly subsidized by the federal government, such as Medicaid, supplemental security income and social security disability benefits, as well as federal pension and compensation entitlements; The commonwealth of Massachusetts shall consider those who complete the requirements in this paragraph a certified veteran service officer or agent. Certification shall be mandatory for employment.
At the request of any municipality or district, the secretary shall offer such training and testing to any person who works directly for a certified veterans service officer or agent.
Failure of a person to comply with this section within six (6) months of being appointed as a veterans’ agent or as an assistant veterans’ agent shall result in the removal by the appointing authority. Failure of an appointed authority to remove the veterans’ agent and comply with this section shall result in the reduction percentage of the allowance of seventy-five per cent to fifty per cent paid by the commonwealth as described in M.G.L. c 115, section 6.
SECTION 2: The secretary shall adopt all necessary rules, regulations, and procedures in conjunction with the commission established by section 19 of chapter 108 of the acts of 2012 to implement this act no later than 180 days following the passage of this act. To defray the costs of administering this Act, funds shall be appropriated to the department of veterans services, and shall be expended under the direction of the secretary.
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