Eagle for Newsletter

 

 

Sound Off!

Eagle for Newsletter 
A Publication of   
Massachusetts Veterans' Service Officers Association 
October 2011 

Welcome to Sound Off! 

Welcome to Sound Off!, the official newsletter of the Massachusetts Veterans Service Officers Association, or the MVSOA.   The MVSOA proudly represents your local Veterans Service Officers (VSO) and Agents, who are on the front line, providing critical services to those who have worn the uniform and their loved ones.  For decades, the MVSOA has been the leading advocate for veterans and their families in the Commonwealth and we see this newsletter as a great way to continue to do just that.

 

We hope Sound Off! to update the public on matters important to veterans and their families.  We hope you will find the information in Sound Off! both informative and interesting.  More importantly, we hope Sound Off! can be a tool to let people know about benefits available to them at the local level through their local VSO.

Local VSOs and Veteran Agents
 

 

Massachusetts has the most comprehensive program for veterans services in the country and local Veterans Service Officers and Agents (the terms are often used interchangably)are at the heart of it.  Local VSOs works for your city or town government or, in some cases, in a veterans services district serving your area.   Every veteran in the Commonwealth has a VSO representing them at the local level and, in fact, any community over 12,000 people is required to hire a full-time VSO. 

 

This is important because VSOs are tasked under Massachusetts Law (MGL Ch. 115) with providing assistance and information for veterans and their families seeking benefits in their community.   With so many veterans and their families facing profound challenges related to their service and the current economy, the local VSO has become more important than ever.   They are indispensable public servants. 

 

People often see local VSOs at ceremonies honoring veterans in their communities.  In many communities, these events might not even take place if not for their hard work and leadership.   Yet, while these events are incredibly important, they are only a small part of what a VSO does.    
 

 

VSOs provide a myriad of services at the local level for veterans and their families.  These services range from providing emergency aid to veterans and their families through the Chapter 115 Program to providing assistance with VA disability claims and enrollment in VA Health Care.  VSOs also provide assistance with state and federal burial benefits, military records, annuity claims, local tax abatements and veteran license plates.  VSOs are also required to assist Chapter 115 recipients in obtaining other "alternative sources of income" including federal benefits such as Social Security and Social Security Disability benefits.   These efforts have resulted in the Commonwealth's veterans and thier families recieving tens of millions of dollars each year in VA and Social Security income that they would not otherwise receive.

 

As you can see, your VSO provides the kind of help that allows veterans and their families in Massachusetts to live with the dignity they have earned through their brave services to this nation. For more information about MVSOA or to get the contact information of your local VSO please visit www.mvsoa.us.

What are Chapter 115 Benefits?

Rockwell Painting - Veteran

 

Local VSOs administer an emergency aid program for veterans and their families known as the Chapter 115 program, named after its Chapter in Massachusetts State Law.   In the last fiscal year alone, VSOs have delivered over $40 million in direct aid to veterans and their families through this critical emergency aid program.  

 

The Chapter 115 Program is a uniform 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, housing supplies, and medical care in accordance with a State-mandated formula which takes into account the number of dependants and income from all sources.  Eligible dependents of deceased veterans are provided with the same benefits as they would were the veteran still living.  

 

The basic premise behind the Chapter 115 program is simple: Veterans are best served when services and benefits are provided at the local level by their fellow veterans.  

 

For more information, please contact your City or Town Hall or go to www.mvsoa.us for a list of VSOs and their contact information.

Massachusetts Veterans Bill of Rights
 

 MA State Flag

The MVSOA wants you to know that under Massachusetts Law, veterans have the right to the following: 

 

●File a written application for veterans' benefits at any time. You can insist upon this right, even if told that you are not eligible. 108 CMR 4:02 (1)

 

●Receive assistance from your local veterans' agent in completing your application (M.G.L. Ch. 115, s. 3);

 

●Receive a full explanation of the services and benefits available under M.G.L. ch. 115, as well as other available benefits;

 

●Receive a written notice and explanation of the approval or denial of your application for benefits (108 CMR 8.02);

 

●Be treated with dignity and respect and to receive accurate, courteous, and timely service;

 

●Appeal and request a hearing if you disagree with any action taken in your case [108 CMR 8.07(1)];

 

For additional information on your rights, speak to your local VSO or call the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services at (617) 210-5480.

MVSOA Gets Results for Veterans

 

Massachusetts leads the nation in providing services to veterans and their families, but without the longtime support of the Legislature that would not be the case.  That's why we proudly work with our friends in the Legislature to protect and enhance these benefits.  The MVSOA has an unmatched record of achievement in advocating for the Commonwealth's veterans and their families.

 

This work has produced tangible results.  We have successfully fought for increases in Chapter 115 and burial benefits, tax abatements along with annuities for Gold Star Families and 100% Service Connected Disabled Veterans and their widows.   Every year, the Commonwealth's veterans and their families receive tens of millions of dollars in direct cash benefits that can be tied directly to our legislative efforts. 

 

The MVSOA's goal is to make sure that the brave men and women of our military are not forgotten once they return home. We will keep you updated on these issues in future editions of SOUND OFF! 

 
MVSOA Legislative Luncheon

State House Picture with American and POW Flag

 

The MVSOA's Annual Legislative Luncheon will be held at the State House on January 18th, 2012 at the Grand Staircase at 11amThe MVSOA is proud to announce that Speaker Robert DeLeo will once again sponsor this important event. 

 

Each year, the MVSOA meets at the State House to advocate for the MVSOA's legislative priorities and thank our friends in the Legisature for their continued support for the Chapter 115 Program.  

 

The Legislative Luncheon is an opportunity for MVSOA members to communicate directly with their legislators. It also provides the Legislature with a better appreciation of who we are and, more importantly, what we do to serve the veterans of their communities.

 

This year, the MVSOA Legislative Luncheon will focus on the passage of House Bill 3307 (Sponored by Representative Hank Naughton) and Senate Bill 1825 (Sponsored by Senator Jack Hart), An Act Relative to the Training and Certification of Veterans Agents and Service Officers.  

 

This commonsense Legislation addresses the issue of uneven delivery of veterans services in the commonwealth and was a key finding of the 2009 Hidden Wounds of War Commission report

 

It is time that this important Legislation becomes Law so that all veterans and their loved ones recieve the highest level of service at the local level.  

 

We hope to see you there! 

 
Welcome Home Bonuses Available for Returning Veterans

In 2005, the Legislature passed the "Welcome Home Bill", a major provision of which was the Welcome Home Bonus.  The Bonus provides up to $1,000 for those who have served since 9/11 in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world.  In 2009, the Legislature took the added step of  passing a measure allowing for a $500 Bonus for those who have served multiple deployments.

  

The MVSOA is proud to have worked closely with our friends in the Legislature and many veteran organizations to pass this important Legislation.  

 

It is critically important that those who are eligible apply for the Bonus.  To date, thousands have applied, yet far too many have not.  Please help us make sure that those who have served on our behalf get the benefits they deserve. 

 

For more information, contact Treasurer Steve Grossman's Bonus Division or your local VSO for more information on the Welcome Home Bonus and how to apply.

 

 

You can find your local VSO at www.mvsoa.us.

 

 

Support for Laws Assisting Veterans 
 

The MVSOA credits Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee for showing such strong public support for the Chapter 115 Program.   

 

In July, they sent a letter to all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth reminding them that every city and town must have  a VSO and that communities over 12,000 people must have a full-time VSO or join a veterans services district.  

 

Massachusetts is a national leader in helping veterans and their loved ones.  This did not happen by accident.   Without exaggeration, Chapter 115's provisions ensuring appropriate staffing at the local level is the single biggest reason why this is the case. 

 

We are squarely behind this initiative and again credit the them along with our friends in the Legislature for standing up a program that  is at the heart of the Commonwealth's efforts to serve veterans and their families.

Sound Off! -- The TV Show

 

Sound Off!, the MVSOA's TV show has been a great success in letting veterans and their loved ones know about issues important to them.  Sound Off! is sponsored by the MVSOA and taped in the NewTV studios in Newton.  It is a show produced by veterans, for veterans, and about veterans.  

 

The show can now be seen on over 70 local cable access television stations around the Commonwealth and that number is growing!  If you do not have it available in your city or town, let your local cable access provider know that you and other veterans want this show to be broadcast on their station.  

  

The show provides information on programs available to veterans and their families and spotlights the men and women who work so hard to provide them.  Sound Off! also brings on elected and government officials along with other guests to discuss issues of interest to veterans.   So far, Lt. Governor Tim Murray, Treasurer Steve Grossman, Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee and many Legislators have appeared on the show to update veterans and their loved ones on what they are doing to support veterans and their families here in the Massachusetts. 

 

For information about how to get Sound Off on your local cable TV station, please contact Newton VSO John M. MacGillivray, at 617.796.1092 or by email at jmacgillivray@newtonma.gov.
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Massachusetts Veterans' Service Officers Association | 10 Pearl Street | Stoughton | MA | 02072