Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) last week signed legislation designed to ease the transition to civilian life for service members, providing veterans protection against employment discrimination and extending low-income housing opportunities statewide.
The measure “continues to set the tone that Massachusetts leads the nation when it comes to the benefits and services that it provides our veterans,” said Francisco Ureña, secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services. “There are provisions here that impact both active, reserve, national Guardsmen and women, Gold Star families.”
The HOME Act also establishes the Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans’ Services, which will provide state oversight to the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldierst Homes, reported the Boston Globe.
Prior to the law, there were no statutes prohibiting Massachusetts employers from discriminating against a job candidate because he or she is a veteran. Also, veterans were given preference for low-income housing only within the communities where they live.
“This will start to give the opportunity to veterans in being more flexible with their housing choices, and just improve their quality of life overall for them and their families,” said Eric Segundo, vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Other provisions of the HOME Act will:
- create a commission to explore ways to help veterans transition to civilian life after deployment;
- allow state employees who leave for military service for more than 30 days to continue to be paid their salary minus their military pay, and to have their seniority protected;
- provide a property tax exemption for family members of National Guard members who died during active military service; and
- exempt deployed veterans from having to pay the state motor vehicle excise tax.
“We have been talking about this for five or six years,” said state Sen. Michael Rush, chairman of the joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “We see this as a step-by-step approach.”