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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 3B: Veterans' benefits and services officers; certification and training; reduction in reimbursement allowance

Section 3B. (a) The secretary of veterans' services shall establish standards and promulgate regulations for the mandatory training and certification of veterans' benefits and services officers. Veterans' benefits and services officers shall be trained and certified within 6 months of the officer's appointment pursuant to section 3. Training shall be offered annually and shall be administered by the secretary of veterans' services and approved by the Massachusetts Veterans' Service Officers Association and Massachusetts Municipal Association.

The secretary shall formulate a certification test in conjunction with the Massachusetts Veterans' Service Officers Association, which shall ensure the candidate possesses the core knowledge to effectively serve veterans. The secretary shall make the test available at the mandatory annual training and shall provide a reasonable schedule of make-up training and testing. The certification test shall assess areas of knowledge including, but not limited to, the following: veterans' benefits contained in this chapter; federal and local benefits, including employment, education, health care, retirement and other veterans' benefits; and alternative resources, including those partially or wholly subsidized by the federal government, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability benefits and federal pension and compensation entitlements. At the request of any appointing authority, the secretary shall offer training and testing to any person who works for, or in conjunction with, a certified veterans' services officer or agent. Upon petition to the secretary by the appointing authority, a person appointed as a veterans' benefits and services officer may be exempted by the secretary from the requirements of this section.

(b) A person who receives an appointment as a veterans' benefits and services officer or who is currently employed as a veterans' benefits and services officer under section 3 shall be certified. To be certified as a veterans' benefits and services officer, the candidate shall, at a minimum, meet the following qualifications: (i) be appointed locally under section 3; (ii) attend a mandatory training within 6 months of appointment, administered by the secretary of veterans' services; (iii) attend a mandatory training once every calendar year; and (iv) take and pass the test offered at each administered training once every 3 years. The secretary of veterans' services shall consider candidates who complete the requirements of this section a certified veterans' benefits and services officer.

As used in this section, ''veterans' benefits and services officer'' shall include: (A) full-time and part-time veterans' agents under this chapter, chapter 471 of the acts of 1972, chapter 68 of the acts of 1984 and 108 CMR; (B) full-time directors of veterans' services districts under this chapter, said chapter 471, said chapter 68 and said 108 CMR; (C) county veterans' agents under chapter 128 of the acts of 1982; and (D) the veterans' benefits and services commissioner in and for the city of Boston under this chapter.

(c) During the period of employment, a person holding a veterans' benefits and services officer certificate under this section shall be under the direct supervision of the appointing authority in section 3. The appointing authority shall regularly evaluate the performance of assigned duties by the veterans' benefits and services officer.

(d) Failure of a veterans' benefits and services officer to comply with this chapter shall result in reduction of the reimbursement allowance, paid by the commonwealth under section 6, from 75 per cent to 50 per cent. The reduction shall remain in effect: (i) for a time period designated by the secretary; (ii) until the appointing authority is in full compliance; (iii) until a plan is agreed upon by the appointing authority and the secretary to be in full compliance by a date agreed to by the secretary and the appointing authority; or (iv) by removal of the veterans' benefits and services officer.

(e) The department shall, for any reduction in the reimbursement allowance made under subsection (d), deposit the reimbursement in a trust account. Upon the appointing authority's full compliance under subsection (d), the department shall add this amount to a subsequent reimbursement made to the city or town under section 6.

(f) Veterans' benefits and services officers or agents shall not disclose any information transmitted in confidence by and between a veteran and a veterans' benefits and services officer or agent, except as follows: (i) when the disclosure is made for the benefit of the veteran; (ii) the disclosure is reasonably necessary to assist the veteran; or (iii) under a lawful order to make such disclosure. For the purposes of this subsection, information received by a veterans' benefits and services officer or agent which arises out of and in the course of providing assistance shall include, but not be limited to, communications, reports, records, working papers or memoranda.