Veterans’ Laws and Benefits
Under Massachusetts General Laws M.G.L. ch. 115, the Commonwealth provides a needs-based means tested program of financial and medical assistance for indigent veterans and their dependents. Qualifying veterans and their dependents receive necessary financial assistance for food, shelter, clothing, fuel, and medical care in accordance with a formula which takes into account the number of dependents and income from all sources. Eligible dependents of deceased veterans are provided with the same benefits as if the veteran were still living.
How to apply
For applications, contact the local Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO) in the city or town where the veteran lives. To find a VSO:
- Call the local City or Town Hall and ask for Veterans’ Services;
- Call the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, 617-210-5480, and ask for the VSO name and contact information;
- Visit the DVS website at www.mass.gov/veterans to search by municipality;
- Click here for a complete listing.
History of veterans’ benefits in Massachusetts
In the 18th century, towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony provided assistance to needy veterans of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between France and Great Britain, fought in North America. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts began providing for its veterans immediately following the Revolutionary War. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, the state legislature formalized the assistance provided to veterans by establishing M.G.L. Chapter 115 and the Department of Veterans' Services. Offices of Director of Veterans' Services, Burial Agent, and Graves Officer opened in every city and town in the Commonwealth.
State and local government leaders wanted to recognize service in the armed forces by providing certain essential benefits to men and women (both living and deceased) who had borne the burden of military duty—and to their families. Chapter 115 enables every eligible Massachusetts veteran to receive certain financial, medical, educational, employment, and other benefits earned by military service. Veterans, their dependents, and surviving spouses have been singled out to receive counsel and assistance dispensed through the 351 municipal Veterans' Services offices.
Today M.G.L. Chapter 115 requires every city and town to maintain a Department of Veterans' Services through which the municipality makes available to its residents the part-time or full-time services of either an exclusive or district Veterans' Service Officer (VSO). It is the job of the VSO to provide the veterans (living and deceased) and their dependents access to every federal, state, and local benefit and service to which they are entitled—including assisting in their funerals and honoring them on Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.
The mission of the Department of Veterans' Services (DVS) is to be the chief advocate for the nearly half-million veterans of the Commonwealth and their families. DVS establishes policy, proposes legislation, ensures that adequate funding for veterans' programs is included in the Governor's budget, and represents the interests of veterans in matters coming before the General Court. In addition, DVS represents all state agencies and individual veterans before the federal Department of Veterans Affairs in securing federal compensation and other benefits that might be available.
Massachusetts health insurance law and VA healthcare
Under Chapter 58 of the Acts of 2006, frequently referred to as the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Law, as of July 2007 all adult Massachusetts residents are required to have health insurance. Residents are asked to verify their health insurance coverage on their tax return and residents who do not have insurance face financial penalties. There are a variety of health insurance options available that veterans can access.
Under Administrative Bulletin 04-07 enrollment in the VA healthcare system (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) qualifies as creditable insurance coverage under the law. Because many veterans have earned this healthcare through their service and it is available at very low or no out-of-pocket cost, veterans may apply for VA healthcare prior to signing up for Commonwealth Care, Medicare, or MassHealth which may charge premiums, fees, and co-pays.