By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – 11-22
Each year, Veterans Day is a special opportunity for us to take stock and reflect on all we are doing to support our Veteran community and what more needs to be done.
During this legislative session, a number of very important laws were passed to support Veterans across the Commonwealth, highlighted below. This is very encouraging progress – and we must continue to do more, especially as it relates to mental health care for our Veterans.
Reform of Soldiers’ Homes & Veteran Care: Very importantly, the Legislature passed, and Governor Baker signed into law sweeping reforms that will improve governance and oversight at our Soldiers’ Homes, as well as Veteran care broadly across the Commonwealth.
This is landmark legislation, a major win for our Veteran community.
As lead sponsor of this legislation alongside Senator Mike Rush, a fellow Veteran, this was a fight we committed to many years ago. It has been a long road – but one that resulted in real, deep, and lasting change. This law has received broad praise from Veterans groups, long-term care experts, and policymakers.
We cannot legislate the character of a leader – but we can require transparency, excellent standards of care, and most importantly, a clear chain of command, a clear line of communication, and responsibility and accountability at all levels of leadership at our Soldiers’ Homes. That is what this law demands.
Further, this law will ensure a consistent focus on improving care and services for all Veterans statewide – by elevating the role of the Secretary of Veterans’ Services to the Governor’s Cabinet and creating an independent Office of the Veteran Advocate. This is deep, necessary reform – and our Veterans and their families deserve nothing less.
Memorial for Deborah Samson: The Legislature also passed into law legislation I filed alongside Representative David Vieira (R-Falmouth) to create an official memorial for a historic woman Veteran – Deborah Samson.
Deborah was a Massachusetts resident who disguised herself as a man so she could serve her budding nation in the Revolutionary War. She served in an important unit with a dangerous mission, was injured in battle on multiple occasions, and was held in high esteem by leading patriots like John Hancock and Paul Revere. Her story is one of courage, honor, and service. I am proud that Deborah’s incredible legacy will be memorialized in the Commonwealth.
Broad Support for Military Families: The Legislature passed into law a legislative package with wide-ranging supports for Veterans and military families, including our National Guard. This law will connect Veterans, service members, and their families to resources that will support their health, education, and career opportunities.
Highlights of the law include: connecting Veterans to resources regarding burn pit exposure; creating a Medal of Fidelity to honor Veterans who passed away from service-connected diseases (such as Agent Orange and related exposures to toxins) or PTSD; and supporting military families who relocate to Massachusetts by ensuring that their professional licenses carry over and that they are eligible for in-state tuition at state universities.
The law also establishes a tax credit for businesses that employ National Guard members; ensures that military families receive information on burial and funeral benefits for Veterans; creates Veteran Mentor Programs at our public higher education institutions; and creates the Purple Star Campus Program to incentivize schools to meet the needs of students of military families.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced IT, the Internet and Cybersecurity. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2676. ◊