By: Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives
November 11, Veterans’ Day, a national day of remembrance to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces during war, was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
In my first term as State Senator, I am proud to have worked on veterans issues and supported legislation that expanded their benefits. Massachusetts spends more than two times as much per veteran as any other state in terms of local and state government expenditures. Additionally, Massachusetts leads the nation in the number of benefit programs available to its veterans, offering 67 unique services, and yet, there is still more work to be done.
Housing for veterans is an issue I will continue to work on in my second term in the State Senate. Last month, I hosted a roundtable discussion with area Veterans Service Agents, Housing Authorities and the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Michael F. Rush. The discussion focused on challenges related to the high cost of rental units and homes in the region, and reviewed programming and benefits available to veterans. Also discussed was what could be done legislatively and through the budget to address these issues. The Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, veterans agents from Amesbury, Haverhill, Merrimac, Methuen, Newburyport, North Andover and Salisbury, in addition to other Merrimack Valley and North Shore representatives, were in attendance.
The conversation also covered how municipalities can work to improve access to housing for veterans. Such examples include expanding Community Preservation Act options to include the development of veterans housing, supporting funding for the maintenance of existing housing complexes, and the purchase and rehabilitation of foreclosed properties.
A great example of municipal efforts is Freedom House in North Andover, which was assisted by Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds and will provide three veterans and their families in North Andover with housing. I toured Freedom House last month and it not only provides housing to the veterans and their families, but restored a building in need of some repair, an all around benefit to the community. The families are due to move in by Thanksgiving.
Veterans in our communities include men and women who served generations ago, as well as those who returned from serving as recently as this month. They have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms and deserve access to information and resources, whether in the transfer to civilian life or address housing challenges in their later years. Over the next legislative session, I will work with our Veterans Agents and veterans organizations to submit legislation and advocate for state budget priorities to advance these goals.