Rep. Reyes: Why I Support the HERO Act


By: State Rep. Estela  Reyes – Feb. 2024

As we embark on another legislative session, I am filled with enthusiasm to serve you, the resilient members of our community. The 4th Essex District and the entire state of Massachusetts rely on elected officials to protect their needs and better their environment, schools, health, and more.

There are a plethora of important bills which touch on these topics. I hope to see many of them made into law this year. While I have your attention here, I would like to use this space to advocate for one bill in particular- the HERO Act. The HERO Act, H.4172 filed by Governor Healey, is now before The Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs of which I am a member. I want to begin by expressing my support of this legislation along with my solidarity with veterans.

The HERO Act can be understood from three major categories: benefit expansion, commitment to inclusivity and greater representation, and modernization of veteran services. These are broken down based on policy incentives, tax credits, and statute changes. Benefit expansion is needed now for veterans. With inflation and high rent, we must increase annuity accordingly. The HERO Act will do just that. Another key measure under veteran benefits is access to behavioral health treatments. We cannot let our veterans suffer alone.

This act will reimburse outpatient behavioral health care visits. A third, but not final, measure under benefit expansion has to do with lengthening the timeframe for veterans to participate in the Active-Duty Service Buyback program. We heard testimony from many veterans who expressed difficulty with managing their enrollment in this program in 180 days or less. This bill wants to alleviate that stressor by expanding that timeframe to 10 years.

The second key goal of this bill, commitment to inclusivity and greater representation, makes long overdue changes that will largely support our women, minority, and LGBTQ+ identifying veterans. The first step here is to expand the definition of ‘veteran’ to allow for more veterans to apply for annuity. The current definition in Massachusetts lags behind the federal definition. This change will more closely align the two. It will also update the definition of a veteran dependent to match the definition used by the Probate and Family Court.

The final key measure I will mention here is the creation of a pilot program to support same-sex couples who have been denied reimbursement for IVF treatments under the Veterans Health Administration. This is more inclusive to same-sex couples who wish to have a family and get the same support as veteran couples of the opposite sex. I support these changes because all veterans deserve to be recognized and supported equally.

Veteran services are desperately in need of modernization. The modernization detailed in H. 1472 includes language, standardization, mental health support, overall healthcare, and the operation of veteran cemeteries. It has been too long since state officials have come together to pass updated legislation for our veterans. I am proud to take this stand for veterans now.

If you have any questions regarding the HERO Act or any other pieces of legislation, as always, please reach out to my office through my email I look forward to hearing from constituents and considering their perspective across many areas of expertise. ◊