Massachusetts lawmakers have passed a bill designed to build on an existing law expanding opportunities and services for military personnel, veterans and their families. The bill provides property tax relief and strengthens employment, educational and health care support services.
The legislation, known as the Valor Act II, creates a home modification program to help injured veterans stay in their homes. It also authorizes the Secretary of Veterans' Services to establish enhanced training and certification for officials working on veterans' benefits and services.
The bill also allows students enrolled in college, who are called to active duty, to either complete their course work without penalty after returning, or to withdraw and receive a tuition refund.
It also increases penalties for disturbing military funerals and helps guard against charity fraud.
Democratic State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield is one of the bill’s leading advocates.
“What we tried to do here was make sure when a family is grieving, when a community is grieving the last thing they have to worry about is dealing with a group that may come with a hateful message from the outside to try and disrupt that service,” Downing said during an interview with WAMC News in October.
The bill heads to Governor Deval Patrick.