Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House in passing legislation to improve veterans access to housing and protect veterans from discrimination.
Known as the Veterans HOME Act, the bill also establishes the Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans Services in order to increase accountability and maintain financial stability within the state’s two Soldiers’ Homes.
The new executive director, appointed by the Department of Veterans Services Secretary, will report to the legislature annually to promote best practices within the homes.
“There is no question that Massachusetts is number one in terms of providing services to our veterans,” said Rep. Jerry Parisella, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “Although we do so much for our veterans, it is important that we continue to improve the lives of those who have so gallantly served their country.”
The bill will give veterans preference in public housing throughout the state, and exempt a 100% disabled veteran’s disability income from the calculation used to determine eligibility for public housing.The bill also makes veterans status a protected class in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Other provisions of the bill include the creation of a post-deployment commission to study ways to improve services to veterans who have deployed overseas; exempts those that have earned the Silver Star from the civil service examination; clarifies the real estate tax exemption for Gold Star families and updates the rules for public employees who take leave for military service to reflect the current model of training for those in the National Guard and reserve forces.
The House also adopted an amendment to exempt active-duty military members serving outside Massachusetts from the excise tax on automobiles.
The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.