Gov. Charlie Baker joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña, members of the Legislature and veterans of the United States Armed Services on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the ceremonial signing of An Act Relative to Veterans Benefits, Rights, Appreciation, Validation and Enforcement in the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
At the same time, Gov. Baker announced that the groundbreaking on the new Quigley Memorial Hospital will be later this year.
At Tuesday’s event, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that it will be breaking ground on the new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home later this year, after including state funding for a new long-term care facility at the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget plan. In November 2017,Governor Baker signed legislation to fund the construction of the $199 million 154-bed Community Living Center, and in April 2018, the Baker-Polito Administration received funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and plans to spend approximately $70 million net of federal reimbursement on the project. The federal funding was awarded through the VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up to 65% of construction costs.
The Community Living Center will provide private, “home-like” rooms for veterans in accordance with VA standards of design which promotes greater accessibility, mobility, and enhanced quality of life. Services will include physical and occupational therapy, recreational activities and greater access to the outdoors. The Quigley Memorial Long Term Care Center will be fully operational during the construction process.
Known as the “BRAVE Act,” the signed legislation provides additional support for members of the veterans’ community and their families, including tax credits and enhanced educational opportunities.
“The Commonwealth will forever be indebted to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and expanding services for veterans under the BRAVE Act is a small way to honor their sacrifice,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The BRAVE Act builds on Massachusetts’ nation-leading support for service members and strengthens our commitment to the Commonwealth’s veterans and their loved ones.”
Said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco Urena, “The Brave Act reinforces our first in the nation status in providing services and benefits to our veteran population. I am pleased to see the legislature’s bipartisan effort in support of my fellow veterans.”
Speaker Bob DeLeo also lent his support to the signing.
“Massachusetts has a proud history of leading the nation in military-benefit programs and service, and this new law continues that tradition by providing additional supports to our service members and their families,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “We’re sending a message to our heroes and their families that the Commonwealth honors their bravery, service and sacrifice.”
Highlights from the BRAVE Act include:
- Designates April 5, as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.
- Establishes a Massachusetts Veterans and Warriors Agriculture Program to enhance education, training, employment, income, productivity and retention of veterans working in or aspiring to work in the field of agriculture.
- Allows parents or surviving guardians of veterans, who died in service to the country, to receive a real estate credit on property beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
- Increases veterans’ local property tax work-off program from $1,000 to $1,500.
- Allows Gold Star License Plates to be affixed to commercial vehicles.
- Provides time off for veterans for Veterans Day and Memorial Day, with or without pay, at the discretion of the employer.
- Requires the Department of Veterans’ Services to maintain and publish a list of law firms and organizations that provide pro bono legal representation for veterans
- Establishes a special commission to study cost and feasibility of exempting all cost to veterans of attending public higher education in Massachusetts.
- Directs the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, to partner with a Massachusetts college or university to conduct a study relative to veterans and military members suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues related to their military service and their needs in the criminal justice system.
- Extends the veterans’ bonus program administered by the Treasurer to allow for the maximum amount of benefits under the program, subject to appropriation, to those veterans who served during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.