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Veterans will get expanded medical care, tax exemptions, emp

Weymouth News - 5/31/2018

Veterans will get expanded medical care, tax exemptions, employment protections and help with burial expenses under the Brave Act that was approved by the state senate and house.

House lawmakers approved the Brave Act last Wednesday with some minor changes and the bill, which was approved by the SenateMay 3, will be sent to a house and senate conference committee for review.

State Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R-Weymouth, stated the Brave Act "goes a long way with ensuring that Massachusetts remains number one in the nation with providing for our veterans."

"Our veterans risk their lives to ensure our safety at home," he stated. "The least Massachusetts can do is ensure that our veterans that do return home are taken care of. This omnibus legislation has ideas in it that address employment protections, tax exemptions, court programs, medical care burial expenses and much more."

The bill also grants paid military leave by employers to military reservists up to 40 days if they are summoned for training and operation purposes.

The Brave Act also increases the burial expense paid by the state from $2,000 to $4,000 to adequately provide for a funeral, according to a summary provide by O'Connor.

Veterans who receive annuities for serving the nation are exempted from income calculations when seeking assistance from state programs or services under the legislation.

The Senate bill additionally designates April 3 as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in Septebmer as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day. Under the legislation, communities are directed to designate reserved parking spaces for veterans at all city and town halls.

The Senate also approved an amendment to the Brave Act submitted by O'Connor that expands the veterans' community service exchange program. Under the program, a veteran is allowed to have a reduction on their property taxes if they reside in a community which participates in the community service exchange program.

"I believe this is a wonderful way to reduce the property tax burden on veterans who helped defend our freedom and way of life," O'Connor stated. "This program helps veterans afford their homes and incentivizes community service. I encourage all municipalities that haven't take advantage of this program to look into doing so."

O'Connor communications director Anthony Andronico said the legislation would be reviewed by the conference committee before it is sent to Gov. Charlie Baker for approval.

"It will be sent to the conference committee to hash out the differences and it will include the amendment for the service exchange program in the Brave Act," Andronico said, Friday.

He said the house and senate versions of the Brave Act differ very little except in how the legislation is worded.

The House approved the Brave Act with an amendment requested by State Rep. James Murphy.

Murphy's amendment would allow communities to grant a full property tax exemption to parents of military members who die in combat.

"As Americans, we make a promise," Murphy stated. "If you protect and defend our freedom and risk your life on behalf of our country, we need to follow through on providing you with the servicres you need. With the adoption of this amendment, we will ensure that Massachusetts provides Gold Star parents with the best services and benefits in the country. These families have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation. Exempting them from paying property taxes allows communities to show appreciation for their loss and gratitude for their service."

At present, parents of a son or daughter who have died in combat are eligible for a $400 property tax exemption. Spouses of a husband or wife who die in a military operation are eligible for a full property tax exemption.

The amendment additionally would eliminate a requirement for parents of a fallen military member to file applications for the property tax exemption annually to avoid reliving a difficult time in their lives, according to Murphy.

Weymouth Veterans Services Director George Pontes said Murphy's amendment would have a "direct positive impact on Gold Star parents."

"This bill will provide a small measure of understanding and appreciation for the sacrifices Gold Star parents have made," Pontes stated. "Massachusetts is home to the best veterans services and benefits in the country. Measures such as this will insure we continue to lead the way for everyone else to follow."

Hingham veterans' services officer Keith Jermyn said the amendment recognizes Gold Star parents have also made a supreme sacrifice for the nation, community and state.

"They have paid such a high price for freedom's sake, that we will never be able to fully repay them," Jermyn stated. "This simple gesture by the Legislature is the right thing to do, and I applaud Rep. Murphy for his unwavering support to champion this cause."

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