Press Release: Representative Hunt supports enhanced benefits, diversion options for Massachusetts veterans

Monday, July 30th, 2018 @ 3:05PM

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 

CONTACT: Katie Babbin, 617-722-2800 x8743

July 30, 2018

 

Representative Hunt supports enhanced benefits, diversion options for Massachusetts veterans

BOSTON – State Representative Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, has renewed his commitment to Massachusetts veterans by once again backing the passage of the BRAVE Act.

Senate Bill 2632, An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, was enacted by the House of Representative on a unanimous vote of 150-0 on July 27.  Representative Hunt also supported the original version of the BRAVE Act when it came before the House of Representatives for a vote on May 23.

The final bill includes compromise language reached by a six-member conference committee that worked to resolve the differences between earlier versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate.

“In our neck of the woods, with Joint Base Cape Cod employing active duty and reserves personnel, as well as being home for many retired military, passage of the BRAVE Act is key to providing new benefits and clarifying past benefits. Massachusetts does more than any other state to take care of our military personnel at all stages of their careers” said Representative Hunt.

The reconciled language in the BRAVE Act makes corrective changes to veteran diversion, in an effort to shore up changes made by this year’s criminal justice reform legislation, which was signed into law on April 13. The changes grant diversion-eligible veterans a 30 day continuance on charges for first-time offenses. For first-time OUI offenses, the veteran must prove their offense was related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or substance abuse disorder suffered as a result of their military service. A veteran will not be eligible for diversion for an OUI if they are charged with any additional offenses stemming from the OUI.

The bill doubles state funding assistance for indigent veterans’ burial costs from $2,000 to $4,000, while increasing the property tax exemption for veterans who perform volunteer work for their home community from $1,000 to $1,500.  The bill also reduces the residency requirement for veterans and surviving spouses living in Massachusetts to qualify for real estate tax exemptions from five consecutive years of residency to two years.

An additional provision contained in the BRAVE Act gives cities and towns the option to adjust veterans property tax abatements on an annual basis.  The amount of the increase cannot exceed the cost of living increase for that year, as calculated by the Consumer Price Index.

The BRAVE Act also:

  • updates the current military campaign eligibility for the Welcome Home Bonus, and authorizes the family of a deceased service member to receive the $1,000 stipend;
  • adds Prisoners of War (POWs) to the list of veterans eligible for a property tax abatement;
  • allows municipalities to designate a parking spot for veterans at their city or town hall free of charge during normal business hours;
  • requires employers to provide employees who are veterans with time off, with or without pay, to observe Veterans Day;
  • establishes a special commission to study the cost and feasibility of exempting veterans from tuition and fees when attending a public university, with a report due by July 1, 2019;
  • requires the Commissioner of Veterans Services to maintain and publish a list of law firms and organizations that provide pro bono legal representation for veterans;
  • allows surviving parents or guardians of veterans who died in service to the country to receive a real estate credit on their property beginning on January 1, 2019;
  • authorizes recipients of the Bronze Star to be eligible for Bronze Star License Plates through the Registry of Motor Vehicles; and
  • allows qualifying individuals whose vehicles are owned by trusts, partnerships, or corporations to be eligible for Gold Star Family license plates.

The Senate voted to accept the conference committee report on July 26.  Following a final vote on enactment in the Senate, the BRAVE Act will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his review and signature.

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