Legislation strengthens 2012 Valor Act and enhances commitment to Commonwealth's veterans

State Rep. Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week to pass the 2013 VALOR Act which builds on existing legislation to expand opportunities and services for military personnel, veterans and their families.

The legislation provides increased property tax relief and enhances employment, educational and healthcare support services. It also establishes a home modification program for veterans to help individuals stay in their homes and function independently.

Representative Benson stated, "Veterans dedicate their lives to protecting our rights, and freedoms, and it is important that we commit ourselves to providing resources and assistance that can make navigating employment, education, and health care a little easier for veterans and their families. This legislation stands as a small token of appreciation and gratitude for their services."

The bill also includes the below provisions:

* Allows students currently enrolled in college, who are called to active duty, to either complete their coursework without penalty following duty, or to withdraw and receive a tuition refund.

* Requires the Division of Professional Licensure to waive the initial application or certification fee for licensure for any veteran;

* Establishes a post-deployment council to make recommendations and study mental health issues to support military members transitioning to civilian life after deployment;

* Requires the Department of Public Health to issue guidance to acute hospitals and ambulance service providers to ensure the identification of veterans in emergency settings;

* Extends the award qualifications for the Medal of Liberty and updates criteria to qualify for a Purple Heart, Gold Star and the Support Our Veterans license plates.