AN ACT PROVIDING BENEFITS TO SERVICEMEMBERS, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
Whereas , The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to forthwith provide benefits to certain veterans and servicemembers, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. Clause Forty-third of section 7 of chapter 4 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the definition of "World War II veteran" and inserting in place thereof the following definition:-
"World War II veteran" shall mean any veteran who performed such wartime service between September 16, 1940 and July 25, 1947, and was awarded a World War II Victory Medal, except that for the purposes of chapter 31 it shall mean all active service between the dates of September 16, 1940 and June 25, 1950.
SECTION 2. Chapter 10 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 35BB, as so appearing, the following section:-
Section 35CC. There shall be an expendable trust, to be known as the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund, the purpose of which is to help members of the Massachusetts National Guard and Massachusetts residents who are members of the reserves of the armed forces of the United States and who were called to active duty after September 11, 2001, and their families, to defray the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services, and other expenses. The fund shall consist of revenues received by the commonwealth under the provisions of section 6K of chapter 62, from public and private sources as gifts, grants, and donations to further the purposes of the fund. Revenues credited to the fund under this section shall remain in the fund, not subject to appropriation, for application to those purposes. The state treasurer shall not deposit the revenues in, or transfer the revenues to, the General Fund or any other fund other than the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund. The state treasurer shall deposit monies in the fund in accordance with sections 34 and 34A of chapter 29 in such manner as will secure the highest interest rate available consistent with safety of the fund and with the requirement that all amounts on deposit be available for immediate withdrawal at any time. Revenues received for the Military Family Relief Fund shall be directly paid to the Friends of Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families by the military division through the established expendable trust.
SECTION 2A. Section 19 of chapter 15A of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the second paragraph the following paragraph:-
Such guidelines shall provide tuition and fee waivers for Massachusetts National Guard members. The commonwealth, not the institutions of public higher education, shall bear the cost of such tuition and fee waivers for Massachusetts National Guard members.
SECTION 3. Section 4 of chapter 32 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 146, the word "Massachusetts".
SECTION 4. Section 83 of chapter 33 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 13, the figure "75" and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- 100.
SECTION 5. Section 88 of said chapter 33, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the second and third paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
In the case of the death of a member of the Massachusetts National Guard resulting from injury, sickness, or disease received while in the line of duty pursuant to orders under titles 10 and 32 of the United States Code or chapter 33, and that injury, sickness or disease resulting in the death was not the result of fault or neglect on the part of the decedent, a single payment of $100,000 shall be paid to the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse the amount shall be paid to the child, or children in equal shares, of the decedent. If there is no surviving spouse and no child or children, the surviving mother and father of the decedent, if the father and mother were dependent on the decedent for support at the time of his death each shall each receive $50,000. If only 1 parent survived the decedent or only 1 parent was dependent on the decedent for support, that parent shall receive $100,000. The standard for dependency shall be determined in accordance with clause (3) of section 1 and section 32 of chapter 152. All claims presented under the provision of this section shall be made in accordance with the procedure provided for under section 90.
SECTION 6. Said chapter 33 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 88 the following section:-
Section 88B. Fifty per cent of the monthly premiums for any coverage held in the serviceman's group life insurance program administered by the Veterans Administration, or an equivalent group life insurance program of the servicemember's choosing provided that the reimbursement shall not exceed 50 per cent of the monthly premium cost of the Serviceman's Group Life Insurance, for a member of the Massachusetts National Guard shall be borne by the commonwealth.
SECTION 7. Chapter 62 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 6J the following section:-
Section 6K. (a) Every individual who files a separate return and every husband and wife filing a return jointly may voluntarily contribute all or part of any refund to which they are entitled, or may voluntarily add an amount onto any amount due, to be credited to the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund established pursuant to section 35CC of chapter 10.
(b) A contribution made under this section may be with respect to any taxable year at the time of filing a return of the tax established by this chapter for such taxable year; provided, however, that the commissioner shall prescribe the manner in which the contribution shall be made on the face of the return required by section 5 of chapter 62C; and provided, further, that the commissioner shall assure that taxpayers filing the forms are made aware of their ability to make the contributions provided for by this section.
(c) The commissioner shall annually report the total amount designated under this section to the state treasurer, who shall credit the amount to the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund.
SECTION 8. Section 4 of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following 2 paragraphs:-
Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, school committees may award diplomas to any World War II veteran, Korean War veteran or Vietnam War veteran as defined in clause Forty-third of section 7 of chapter 4, who is a resident of the commonwealth, who attended the high school maintained by the school committee, who withdrew from secondary school before graduation in order to serve in the armed forces of the United States, who did not receive a high school diploma as a consequence of that service, and who was honorably discharged from the armed services. The department of education and the department of veterans' services shall jointly promulgate guidelines for the identification of eligible veterans by school districts and for the awarding of the diplomas by school committees.
Family members of deceased veterans, who otherwise are eligible to apply for the diplomas, may apply for a diploma for the veteran posthumously under the same guidelines set forth by the department of education and department of veterans services.
SECTION 9. Section 6B of chapter 115 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 18, 26 and 32, the figure "$1,500" and inserting in place thereof, in each instance, the following figure:- $2,000.
SECTION 10. Said section 6B of said chapter 115, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "parents", in line 29, the following words:- and surviving spouse, provided that surviving spouse does not remarry,.
SECTION 11. Said section 6B of said chapter 115, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after the word "parents", in line 34, the following words:- and surviving spouses.
SECTION 12. There shall be a special commission to study tuition and fee waiver programs, pursuant to section 19 of chapter 15A and section 137 of chapter 33 of the General Laws, for veterans. The commission shall consist of: the speaker of the house of representatives, or his designee; the president of the senate, or his designee; the minority leader of the house of representatives, or his designee; the minority leader of the senate, or his designee; the chairpersons of the joint committee on higher education, or their designee; the chairpersons of the joint committee on veterans and federal affairs, or their designee; the chairperson of the house ways and means committee, or his designee; the chairperson of the senate ways and means committee, or his designee; and the secretary of the department of veterans services, or his designee. Results of the commission's study, including, but not limited to, an evaluation of the feasibility of expanding the programs to include any fees, rather than solely matriculation fees, a review of the current pool of eligible recipients and the level of state and local payments for such fees, and an analysis of the need for changes in the laws and regulations relative thereto, shall be reported to the joint committee on veterans and federal affairs and to the clerks of the house and senate by April 1, 2006.
SECTION 13. The Friends of Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families, shall be solely responsible for administering the grant program; provided, however, that the military division shall make available the revenues received from the Military Family Relief Fund. The Friends of the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families may make grants from the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund to a member or to families of persons who are members of the Massachusetts National Guard or Massachusetts residents who are members of the reserves of the armed forces of the United States and who were called to active duty after September 11, 2001.
The Friends of the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families shall promulgate rules and regulations to establish eligibility requirements for assistance under this section which shall be reviewed by the military division. In developing rules and regulations, the Friends of the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families shall consult with the military division, military support groups, including, but not limited to, the Family Assistance Fund and family assistance centers.
SECTION 14. (a) The Friends of the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families shall submit an annual report to the secretary of administration and finance and the house and senate committees on ways and means detailing:-
(1) the expenditure of the funds including the amount of assistance provided from the fund by branch of service, regular or reserve duty classification, amount of individual assistance provided, the reason that qualified a member of the military or the member's family for assistance and the balance remaining within the interest income account for future disbursements;
(2) the name, address, rank and rating, branch of service, deployment location and amounts of financial assistance provided to each eligible military member and to the member's family.
(b) The information provided pursuant to clause (1) of subsection (a) shall be public records. The information provided pursuant to paragraph 2 of subsection (a) shall be confidential and shall be available for inspection only by the secretary of administration and finance and the general court. Names, addresses and deployment locations shall not be in any report available for public access. The secretary of administration and finance and the legislators with legal access to the report shall be required to hold names, addresses and deployment locations confidential.
SECTION 15. In the event that the Friends of Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve Families loses its status as a charitable corporation or ceases to exist, the secretary of administration and finance shall identify a charitable organization to administer the grants.
SECTION 16. Upon application, as provided in this section, there shall be allowed and paid out of the treasury of the commonwealth without appropriation to each person, who shall have served in the armed forces of the United States in active service as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation Noble Eagle who was discharged or released under honorable conditions from such service, the sums specified in this section; if the domicile of every person on account of whose service the application is filed, shall have been in the commonwealth for a period of not less than 6 months before the time of his entry into the service.
(1) $1,000 to each such veteran who performed active service outside the continental limits of the United States in the Afghanistan or Iraq area as those areas are described by proper federal authority.
(2) $500 to each such veteran who performed active duty within the continental limits of the United States or outside the continental limits of the United States other than in the Afghanistan or Iraq areas for a period of 6 months or more.
"Active service in the armed forces", as used in this section shall not include active duty for training in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard or active duty for training as a reservist in the armed forces of the United States.
The words "armed forces", as used in this act, shall mean the following:-
United States Army, Army of the United States, Army Reserves, United States Navy, United States Naval Reserve, United States Marine Corps, United States Marine Corps Reserve, United States Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard Reserve, Army Nurse Corps, Navy Nurse Corps, United States Air Force, United States Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Army National Guard and including women's branches of said armed forces.
In the case of the decease of any person who would, if alive, be entitled to the benefits of this act, the sum named therein shall be paid to the decedent's heirs-at-law; provided, that if there is more than one heir-at-law, payments shall, in either case, be made in such proportions as the state treasurer shall determine, and in determining the order of precedence, so far as practicable, the following order shall be observed:- spouse and children, mother or father, brother or sister, other dependents; provided, however, that no right or payment under this act shall be subject to the claims of creditors, capable of assignment, regarded as assets, legal or equitable of the estate of the deceased or made the basis for administration thereof.
In case of the decease of any person who died while in active service, there shall be paid the sum of $1,000 subject to, and in the manner provided by the above paragraph. In the case of any person who is mentally incompetent and is entitled to the benefits of this act and for whom no legal guardian has been appointed by court, the sum named therein shall be paid to the decedent's dependents, and in determining the order of precedence so far as practicable, the following order shall be observed:- (i) spouse and children; (ii) mother or father; (iii) brother or sister and (iv) other dependents.
Applications hereunder shall be filed with the state treasurer, upon forms to be furnished by him. The state treasurer may accept the written statement of the clerk of a city or town that a person claiming pay or on whose account pay is claimed by a dependent or heir-at-law, under the provisions of this act, was domiciled therein on the first day of January, in any year, as prima facie evidence of the fact of such domicile, and he may accept such other evidence of domicile as he may consider adequate or necessary. The clerks of the several cities and towns shall, at the request of the state treasurer, forthwith furnish such information relative to such domicile as their records may disclose. The state treasurer may require and accept such additional evidence as he may consider necessary to establish the fact of domicile within the commonwealth as provided under section 1. The adjutant general shall certify to the state treasurer the dates of service and any other military information necessary to carry out the provisions of this act. The state treasurer shall furnish to the adjutant general a copy of Form DD-214 or equivalent documentation as determined by the adjutant general for the permanent records of the military division of the commonwealth. Whoever knowingly makes a false statement, oral or written, relating to a material fact in supporting a claim under the provisions of this act, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment for not more than 3 years, or both. Offenses under this section may be prosecuted by the attorney general, or under his direction, in any court within the commonwealth, and all fines collected thereunder shall be paid to the treasury of the commonwealth. The state treasurer shall act upon all applications made hereunder, and may expend for clerical assistance and for such other expenses such sums as may be necessary in carrying out this act, not exceeding the sums appropriated by the general court for the purpose. Any person aggrieved by a decision of the state treasurer in the matter of payments provided for by this act may appeal to a board, to consist of a member of the department of the state treasurer to be designated by him, an assistant attorney general to be designated by the attorney general, and the adjutant general or his designee, and shall be entitled to a hearing, after due notice, upon such appeal. The decision of the board shall be final.
SECTION 17. Section 5 and section 16 shall take effect as of September 11, 2001.
SECTION 18. Section 9 shall take effect on January 1, 2006.
SECTION 19. Section 2A shall take effect on July 1, 2006.