The Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved omnibus veterans’ legislation in June known as the Veterans H.O.M.E. Act.
State Senator Katy Ives – July, 2016
Senate Bill 2325, “An Act Relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service, and Enrichment,” seeks to improve housing and employment opportunities for military veterans and their families.
The bill allows municipalities to offer property tax exemptions to surviving spouses of any soldier, sailor, or member of the National Guard or veteran who suffered an injury or illness during active duty service which was the proximate cause of their death, or to any service member who is missing in action with a presumptive finding of death. The state will reimburse cities and towns for the amount of the property tax which otherwise would have been collected for this exemption. Military veterans who have a 100 percent disability rating for service-related blindness will also be granted property tax exemption.
Veterans have too often been priced-out of our communities. That is why I filed a successful amendment which instructs the newly established Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing to conduct a feasibility study on providing housing rental cost relief to qualified veterans by offering a tax rebate to landlords who lease a dwelling unit to a veteran who receives Chapter 115 veterans benefits, or his or her family, at a rate below fair market value. This would create incentives for landlords to reduce rental prices so veterans can live where they want to live.
Veterans would also be given preference in public housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities in all communities in the Commonwealth, not only the community in which the veteran resides. Housing authorities would also be required to exclude amounts of disability compensation paid to veterans by the federal government for a service-connected disability in excess of $1,800 for the purpose of computing the rent of a disabled veteran who is not able to work.
The term “veteran status” would also be added as a protected class under the statute prohibiting discrimination in employment. In addition, cities and towns would be allowed to appoint a veterans’ agent for terms of up to three years with the option of reappointment, rather than the current system which requires municipalities to appoint a veterans’ agent annually every April. Veterans’ agents are important members of Massachusetts communities that help over 300,000 veterans residing in the Commonwealth navigate the many state and federal programs and services for veterans.
Senate Bill 2325 would also grant all individuals employed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who are members of the armed forces reserves and who are ordered to service for more than 30 consecutive days, to be paid the regular salary reduced by the amount received as base pay for military service. Seniority and accrued leave time would also be preserved, ensuring that those who are called from reserves to serve do not suffer financially from a leave of absence.
The bill must be reconciled with a version passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his signature.
Senator O’Connor Ives can be reached at KATHLEEN.OCONNORIVES@MASENATE.GOV