Massachusetts holds its veterans in the highest regard. To that end, the state administers veteran assistance programs through its Department of Veteran Services (DVS). Most cities and townships employ a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to act as liaison and counselor. Generally, these officers work out of town or city halls, but exceptions do exist. To be eligible for veteran's benefits, one must be classified as either a "veteran" or a "dependent of a veteran." To be considered a veteran, a service member must have actively served for 180 days in the armed forces, and discharge or release must have been under honorable conditions. The government makes certain exceptions for those who served during wartime, received a service-related disability or those killed in a service-related incident. For applicants to be sure that they qualify for veteran's benefits, they must inquire at a VSO. Detailed here are several of the major services that the state of Massachusetts provides for its resident veterans. It should be noted that some of these programs and services have further eligibility requirements in addition to being a veteran.
Veteran’s Bonus and Annuity
The Veteran’s Bonus Division of the Department of Veteran Services works to provide financial bonuses to veterans and their families. These bonuses are awarded for successful completion of deployments, or in the case of a service member’s death in the line of duty during a deployment. Any veteran who was domiciled in Massachusetts immediately before entry into the armed forces can receive a bonus, if qualified.
Qualification criteria depend on where and when the veteran was deployed, but the bonuses carry no deadlines. Bonuses are also tax-free, delivered by check. A veteran or family of a deceased veteran need only to complete the application forms and send them to their VSO along with any required documentation. The state of Massachusetts also provides an annuity to certain veterans as well as Gold Star Parents through the DVS.
Housing for Veterans
The state of Massachusetts provides housing and assistance to veterans at all levels of need. There are six DVS-supported permanent housing locations throughout the state. These facilities offer rooms on a permanent basis for homeless veterans who meet criteria unique to the site. These requirements often involve being honorably released or discharged, sober for a minimum amount of time and free from particular criminal convictions.
For those veterans seeking, but have not yet found housing, there are four emergency shelters, 11 transitional shelters and 13 state-funded outreach centers located throughout the state. Veterans and their families may use these shelters free of charge. Once there, veterans can receive counseling on finding appropriate housing.
Veterans who have found housing are eligible to receive help paying rent for a few months through M.G.L Chapter 115 so that they have time to find a job or benefits that allow them to pay for their housing. For veterans planning on buying a home, the MassHousing’s Home of the Brave program offers mortgage financing for veterans that have no down payments. Veterans who already own a home may be eligible for a myriad of veterans-only tax exemptions. Eligibility requirements vary.
VA home loans and Military Forbearance Options are available to veterans but are run through federal VA offices and not administered by the state.
Veteran Employment and Training Services Program
The Veteran Employment and Training Services Program (VETS) is an overreaching program with the goal of training, counseling and assisting veterans that are seeking employment outside of the military. There are different divisions of the VETS program, each with distinct responsibilities and goals.
Throughout the state of Massachusetts, there are One-Stop Career Centers for veterans. These facilities aid veterans with job placement and other employment services, advocating veteran's training and employment and maintaining relationships with employers that hire veterans. Each of these career centers is administered by a Local Veteran Employment Representative (LVER) who has local and specialized knowledge specific to their post.
For veterans recently released or discharged from service, there is the Transition Assistance Program, which is a comprehensive five-day course designed to ease service members into the world of civilian life. This program is available for any service members and their families who have separated from the military within the last 12 months (24 months if retiring). These courses take the form of a workshop, held regularly at Fort Devons in Acton, Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford and the Coast Guard Base in Boston.
The Disabled Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP) aids disabled, recently separated and campaign badge veterans with special training and employment needs. The program's services include assessment of skills and needs, coordination of benefits from other programs, referrals to training and work opportunities, job counseling and more.
Educational Opportunities for Veterans
The state of Massachusetts offers many programs for veterans planning on attending college or university. Chief among these is the tuition waiver. All state colleges and universities participate in this waiver program, and it can apply to any state-supported undergraduate course. The waiver can account for full or partial tuition costs.
The waivers are granted on a space-available basis and have some eligibility requirements. Each state college or university has its own Veteran's Representative who liaises with the Massachusetts Office of Veteran Education.
Advocacy for Veteran’s Empowerment
In the case of a veteran not being able to obtain benefits because of personal problems or obstacles in the institution, the Statewide Advocacy for Veteran’s Empowerment (SAVE) program exists to aid them. The SAVE program works with veterans to break down barriers and get them the benefits necessary to ensure a smooth transition to civilian life.