SECTION 1. Chapter 6 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 71, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 71. The board of trustees of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke shall have the management and control of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke and all property, real and personal, of the commonwealth and occupied or used by the home. In the management and control of the home as aforesaid, said board of trustees shall: (1) adopt, issue and promulgate reasonable rules and regulations governing outpatient treatment at, admission to and hospitalization in the home, and (2) appoint a superintendent. The superintendent shall be the administrative head of the home. The superintendent shall, subject to the approval of the trustees, appoint and may remove a medical director, a treasurer, and assistant treasurer. The treasurer and assistant treasurer shall devote their full time and attention to the duties of their office. Section 49 of chapter 31 shall apply to the appointment of the treasurer and assistant treasurer. The superintendent shall also appoint and remove such other persons as the superintendent deems necessary for the proper and efficient operation of the facilities of the home. The medical director shall have responsibility for the medical, surgical and outpatient facilities and shall make recommendations to the superintendent regarding the appointments of all physicians, nurses and other medical staff. SECTION 2. Section 16 of chapter 15A of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the ninth paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
There shall be a Public Service Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to the following eligible recipients: (i) children and widowed spouses of Massachusetts police officers, firefighters and correction officers, who are killed or died from injuries received while in the performance of their duties, including authorized training duty; (ii) children of prisoners of war or military or service persons missing in action whose wartime service is credited to the commonwealth; and (iii) children of veterans whose service was credited to the commonwealth and who were killed in action or otherwise died as a result of such service. Such scholarships shall be awarded by the council pursuant to its guidelines established to govern this program and shall go to those persons referenced above who are admitted to an institution of higher education in the commonwealth to pursue undergraduate studies. The guidelines shall include, but not be limited to, a waiver of mandatory fees.
SECTION 3. Section 26 of chapter 31 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “honor”, in line 25, the following words:- , distinguished service medal, or silver star medal.
SECTION 4. Section 59 of chapter 33 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 5, the word “annual” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- service in the uniformed services, annual.
SECTION 5. Said section 59 of said chapter 33, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by adding the following 2 subsections:-
(e) An employee of the commonwealth in a reserve component of the armed forces of the United States ordered to service for more than 30 consecutive days shall be paid the regular base salary as a public employee for each pay period of such military leave of absence, reduced by any amount received either from the United States or the commonwealth as base pay for military service performed during the same pay period, and shall not lose any seniority or any accrued vacation leave, sick leave, personal leave, compensation time or earned overtime.
(f) For the purposes of this section, uniformed services shall have the same meaning as defined in section 13.
SECTION 6. Section 5 of chapter 59 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out clause Twenty-second D and inserting in place thereof the following clause:-
Twenty-second D, Real estate to the full amount of the taxable valuation of real property of the surviving spouses of soldiers and sailors, members of the National Guard and veterans who, during active duty service, suffered an injury or disease documented by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or a branch of the armed forces, which was a proximate cause of their death, or who are missing in action with a presumptive finding of death, as a result of active duty service as members of the armed forces of the United States; provided, that the real estate is occupied by the surviving spouse as a domicile; and provided further, that the surviving spouse has been domiciled in the commonwealth for 5 consecutive years next before the date for filing for exemption pursuant to this clause or the soldier or sailor, member of the National Guard or veteran was domiciled in Massachusetts for at least 6 months before entering service.
Such exemption shall be available until such time that the surviving spouse dies or remarries.
No real estate shall be so exempt which has been conveyed to the surviving spouse to evade taxation. The amount of the exemption shall be borne by the commonwealth, and the state treasurer shall annually reimburse the city or town for the amount of the tax which otherwise would have been collected for this exemption.
SECTION 7. Section 5 of said chapter 59 , as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the word “paraplegics”, in line 866, the following words:- or have a disability rating of 100 per cent for service-connected blindness.
SECTION 8. Section 3 of chapter 115 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 2, the words “, annually in April,”.
SECTION 9. Said section 3 of chapter 115 is hereby further amended by, inserting after the word “town”, in line 4, the first time it appears, the following words:- who shall serve for a term of up to 3 years and be eligible for reappointment.
SECTION 10. Chapter 115A of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following section:-
Section 12. (a) There is hereby established within the department of veterans’ services an office of state veterans’ homes and housing, hereinafter referred to as the office. The office shall serve as the principal agency for providing oversight of the Soldiers' Home in Massachusetts and the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. The commissioner of veterans’ services shall appoint an executive director of the office, who shall have at least 5 years of management and healthcare experience, and whose duties shall include, but not be limited to, oversight of the office and service as an advisor to the commissioner of veterans’ services on matters relative to veterans housing. The position of executive director of the office shall be classified pursuant to 45 of chapter 30. The executive director may, with the approval of the commissioner of veterans’ services, appoint and remove any employees necessary to carry out the duties of the office. Unless otherwise provided by law, all appointments and removals shall be made under chapter 31. The office shall have the following duties: (1) coordinate and oversee implementation and enforcement of laws, regulations and policies relative to the state’s veterans’ homes; and (2) investigate and make recommendations on best practices for providing housing for veterans in the commonwealth. The executive director shall meet with the board of trustees of the Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts and the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke jointly at least twice per calendar year.
(b) The office shall annually, on or before November 1, submit a report to the general court on the state of the soldiers’ homes. The report shall include findings relative to the following: (1) the quality of care provided at the homes; (2) the financial status of the homes; (3) the uniformity of programs at the homes; (4) capital needs of the homes; and (5) the status of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs accreditation, the efforts needed to maintain compliance and the efforts needed to become fully compliant with the federal department of veterans affairs standards at each soldiers’ home. The report shall also include an analysis of activities of the office, including a summary of activities undertaken to implement uniform intake policies and procedures, patient and resident eligibility requirements, and rate-setting functions between both the Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts and the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. The office shall submit the report to the governor, and the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate, who shall forward the same to the joint committee on veterans and federal affairs, the joint committee on public health and the joint committee on housing. Nothing in this section shall be construed as to supersede sections 40, 41, 70 and 71 of chapter 6.
SECTION 11. The third paragraph of section 32 of chapter 121B of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, in communities where low-income family housing developed pursuant to chapter 200 of the acts of 1948 does not exist, preference in admission shall be given to veterans for all scattered site housing units acquired by a local housing authority pursuant to chapter 705 of the acts of 1966.
SECTION 12. The fifth paragraph of said section 32 of said chapter 121B, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- In determining the net income for the purpose of computing the rent of a totally unemployable disabled veteran, a housing authority shall exclude amounts of disability compensation paid by the United States government for disability occurring in connection with military service in excess of $1800; provided, that such authorization shall apply only in state-aided projects as provided in sections 35 and 36.
SECTION 13. Section 39 of said chapter 121B, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the sixth paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
Among persons who are eligible and qualified for housing pursuant to this section, a preference shall be given to veterans.
SECTION 14. Section 40 of said chapter 121B, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out subsection (d) and inserting in place thereof the following subsection:-
(d) In all housing for elderly persons of low income and handicapped persons of low income there shall be a preference in admission for eligible and qualified applicants who are veterans.
SECTION 15. Section 4 of chapter 151B of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 5 and 6, the words "or ancestry and inserting in place thereof the following words:- ancestry or status as a veteran.
SECTION 16. Section 17 of chapter 260 of the acts of 2006 is hereby repealed.
SECTION 17. Chapter 62 of the acts of 2014 is hereby amended by striking out section 29 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 29. (a) There is hereby established the Massachusetts Post-Deployment Commission to make recommendations regarding the implementation of a program in Massachusetts to support service members transitioning to civilian life after deployment.
(b) The department of veterans’ services shall convene a commission consisting of 17 members appointed by the governor; 2 of whom shall be members of Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program; 2 of whom shall be veterans agents as defined in section 1 of chapter 115 of the General Laws; 2 of whom shall be members of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention; 2 of whom shall be members of the Massachusetts Psychological Association; 1 of whom shall be a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors; and 1 whom shall be the president of Soldier On, Inc., or a designee.
(c) The secretary of veterans’ services shall be the chair of the commission. The members of the commission shall elect a vice chair at their first meeting.
(d) The commission shall perform, and make recommendations pertaining to how best to operationalize and quantify, the following duties which may include, but shall not be limited to: (i) examining and evaluating the effectiveness of veterans’ suicide prevention policies; (ii) examining and evaluating the effectiveness of resilience training for veterans’ personnel; (iii) developing recommendations on ways in which veterans’ support service needs may be promptly assessed upon return from deployment; (iv) developing recommendations for methods by which the commonwealth may identify, evaluate and refer service members returning to civilian life post-deployment for assistance with education, employment, healthcare, housing and other services; (v) providing recommendations for improving communication between mental health support services and veterans who may benefit from such services; (vi) developing recommendations for providing mental health counseling services to combat the effects of post-traumatic stress injuries for post-deployment veterans; and (vii) providing recommendations on improving health access assistance, including analyzing: (1) barriers prohibiting veterans from receiving coverage upon their residency in the commonwealth; (2) tools to educate active duty members who intend to reside in the commonwealth on their ability to acquire health care coverage in the commonwealth; (3) the resources available to military members to help afford coverage upon discharge; and (4) the needs of women veterans relative to issues including, but not limited to, compensation, rehabilitation, outreach, health care, education and other issues facing women veterans in the community. The commission may hold public hearings to assist in the collection and evaluation of data and testimony.
(e) The commission shall submit its findings and recommendations, including a detailed re-entry program plan relative to service members who return to civilian life after deployment, together with any recommendations for legislation by filing the same with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate, the house and senate committees on ways and means, and the joint committee on veterans and federal affairs on or before December 31, 2017. 18. Section 29 of said chapter 62 is hereby repealed.
SECTION 18. Subsection (b) of section 32 of chapter 62 of the acts of 2014 is hereby amended by striking out the figure “16” inserting in place thereof the figure “17”; and by adding the following words:- ; and the president of Soldier On, Inc. or a designee.
SECTION 19. Subsection (d) of said section 32 of said chapter 62 is hereby amended by striking out the words “April 30, 2015” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- January 30, 2018.
SECTION 20. Spouses of soldiers, sailors, members of the National Guard and veterans who died before or after the effective date of this act shall be eligible for the exemption established pursuant to clause twenty-second D of section 5 of chapter 59 of the General Laws; provided, however that said exemption shall only apply to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2016.
SECTION 21. Section 1 of chapter 60A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the eighth paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:—
The excise imposed by this chapter shall not apply to a motor vehicle owned and registered by or leased to a resident who is in active and full-time military service as a member in the armed forces of the United States or the national guard, army or air, of any state, and has been deployed or stationed outside the territorial boundaries of the commonwealth for a period of at least 45 days in the calendar year of the exemption. If the military member is wounded or killed in an armed conflict, he shall not be subject to the foregoing period of service qualification for the calendar year in which he is wounded or killed. This exemption shall apply only to a motor vehicle owned and registered by or leased to a military member in his own name or jointly with a spouse for a non-commercial purpose and a military member may qualify for this exemption for only 1 motor vehicle for each calendar year.
SECTION 22. Chapter 2 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following section: Section 62. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument located in Bicentennial Park in the city of Fall River shall be the official Gold Star Families Memorial Monument of the commonwealth.
SECTION 23. Section 2 of chapter 90, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after line 523, the following new paragraph:-
The registrar shall recognize the eligibility of the next of kin of a member of the military, in possession of a Gold Star Lapel Button, under regulations prescribed by the United States Secretary of Defense, to obtain a “Gold Star Family” registration plate. Possession of a Gold Star Lapel Button and a letter of approval, both issued by the United States Department of Defense, shall be sufficient proof of eligibility for the registrar to furnish a Gold Star Family registration plate. The possession of a Gold Star Lapel Button shall not be a requirement of eligibility for persons who have otherwise presented satisfactory evidence of Gold Star family member status as determined by the registrar.
SECTION 24. Chapter 60 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 35 the following section:-
Section 35A. (a) No municipality shall publish or cause to be published the name, or other individually identifying information, of a veteran still owing a tax pursuant to this chapter after it has become due and payable.
(b) A municipality may communicate through the municipality’s veterans’ agent in order to provide notice and information related to a tax due and payable under this chapter to the veteran owing such tax.
SECTION 25. Section 21 of chapter 62C of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “taxpayers”, in line 70, the following words:- ; provided, however, that the name and address of a veteran shall not be published as part of said list.
SECTION 26. The Department of corrections and the executive office of health and human services shall study the feasibility and costs associated with transporting incarcerated disabled veterans that are eligible for treatment through the federal department of veterans affairs to medical facility operated by the department of veterans affairs.
SECTION 27. Any city, town or district in the Commonwealth may, subject to the approval of the city, town or district’s legislative body, designate a place on its municipal property tax bills or motor vehicle excise tax bills or mail with such tax bills a separate form whereby taxpayers of the city, town or district can voluntarily check off, donate, and pledge an amount of money which shall increase the amount already due to a fund under the supervision of the local veterans agent, the board or officer in charge of the collection of the municipal charge, fee or fine, or the town collector of taxes.
The purpose of this fund is to provide support for veterans and their dependents in need of immediate assistance with food, transportation, heat, and oil expenses. The city, town or district’s Veterans Services Department shall a) establish an application process for veterans and their dependents to obtain assistance; b) establish standards for acceptable documentation of veteran status or dependent status; and c) establish financial eligibility criteria for determining need and amount of assistance for eligible applicants. It shall be responsible for reviewing each applicant, and fairly applying these eligibility and level of need standards.
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