BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - On Tuesday Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced that the administration's 2013 budget will include an increase of $11.25 million for veterans services here in Massachusetts.
Lieutenant Governor Murray said "Massachusetts, through the commitment of its taxpayers, law makers, policy makers and advocates, leads the nation in providing services and benefits for veterans, their families and military personnel. As a Commonwealth, we have an obligation to provide veterans of all eras with services and this additional state funding will help support critical programs and benefits to meet their needs."
Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray have proposed to increase funding to the Department of Veterans' Services by 13 percent in 2012.
According to the Governor's office, more than 385,000 veterans currently live in Massachusetts.
(The statement below is from the office of Lt. Governor Tim Murray)
The $11.25 million in additional FY13 funding will increase:
* Reimbursements to cities and towns for 100% of homeless veterans' costs: Under the Governor's budget proposal, DVS would increase its reimbursement rates to cities and towns from 75% to 100% for homeless shelter services for veterans. The FY13 caseload for veterans services & benefits under Chapter 115 is projected to increase by 18% to approximately $46 million, an increase of $6.9 million over FY12 estimated spending, due to enhanced outreach efforts by DVS and the economy's continued slow rate of recovery. DVS funding supported services for more than 9,100 homeless veterans in FY12. A recent report from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs shows veteran homelessness in Massachusetts down 21% between 2010 and 2011.
* Funding for veterans' annuities: Currently, DVS prorates each enrollee's first payment. Under the Governor's FY13 budget proposal, every veteran or family member would receive a $1,000 benefit upon enrollment in the annuities program beginning in FY13. Caseload for veterans' annuities is projected to increase by 5.5% in the new fiscal year and the associated spending is projected to increase by $1.7 million over FY12 estimated spending.
* Investments in job training initiatives for veterans: The Governor's budget proposal allocates an additional $500,000 to support collaborations between the Department of Veterans' Services, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) to support job training initiatives. This funding will train more than 70 veterans in FY13 through MassMEP's Mobile Outreach Skills Training program, which recruits and trains unemployed veterans and places them in jobs at the end of a mentorship and retention program.
* Funding to support the Veterans Quit Smoking program: The Governor's budget proposal will include an additional $700,000 to support the Veterans Quit Smoking program, a partnership between the Department of Veterans' Services and the Department of Public Health (DPH). This funding will formalize past periodic pilot programs by now allowing veterans and their family members to access free nicotine replacement patches and individualized telephone counseling year round. The Patrick-Murray Administration launched and implemented ‘quit smoking' programs for veterans in 2008 and again in 2011. Since then, the program has supported more than 4,800 veterans and their family members in their efforts to stop smoking. Data from a recent study published by researchers at George Washington University show that every dollar the Commonwealth spends helping MassHealth members quit smoking saves the Commonwealth $3.12 in expenses for hospitalizations due to acute cardiovascular conditions. With this additional $700,000 investment, DPH projects that 5,000 veterans and military family members would receive smoking cessation support in FY13, while at the same time helping people live healthier lives and reducing healthcare costs.
* Funding support for property tax exemptions for Gold Star Spouses: The Governor's budget will include an additional $135,000 to support property tax exemptions for Gold Star Spouses. Spouses of servicemen and women who have died while on active duty would receive an extension to the current property tax abatement and would be permanently exempt from property taxes. Currently, Gold Star Spouses are property tax-exempt for five years, with a cap of $2,500 per year in years six and after. Under the Governor's FY13 budget proposal, the Gold Star property tax exemption would become permanent until the Gold Star Spouse dies or remarries.
* Funding for the Soldiers' Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke: The Commonwealth's two Soldiers' Homes would receive moderate funding increases to ensure that veterans continue to receive quality services and support. The Soldiers' Homes provide housing, health care and other services to approximately 430 veterans in long-term care facilities, as
well as 330 veterans in dormitories. The Governor's budget will include $1.3 million in additional funding for the Soldiers' Home, an increase of 3% over FY12 estimated spending.