Friday, June 17, 2016


BOSTON – During debate of The Veterans HOME Act, a bill focused on offering expanded benefits and services for veterans, the State Senate adopted an amendment this afternoon that aims to retain local control of the Holyoke Soldier’s Home.

The amendment, filed by Senator Don Humason and cosponsored by Senators James Welch and Eric Lesser, specifically strikes language that would have granted principal oversight authority to a new office that the bill would create within the Department of Veterans’ Services.

“There is a real sense of pride and ownership when it comes to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, both on campus and in the surrounding communities,” said Senator Don Humason. “So it was important that we did all we could to preserve local autonomy and ensure people with strong ties to the Soldiers’ Home and Western Massachusetts are able to play a lead role in its day-to-day operations and future.”

“The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke provides outstanding care for veterans in our region,” said Senator James T. Welch (D–West Springfield). “The amendment that passed today will allow the Home to continue its excellent work, maintaining local control of a unique western Massachusetts institution.”

“This is a phenomenal bill for veterans, and what we seek in this amendment is to protect local control at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Many of our veterans in Western Massachusetts are isolated from other veterans’ services, which are concentrated in the eastern part of the state,” Senator Lesser (D–Longmeadow) said on the Senate floor.

Additionally, the Senators’ successful amendment includes language that explicitly states that the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees shall not be subject to the control of the proposed Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing.

The Holyoke Soldier’s Home is a multifaceted state-funded health care facility that has been serving eligible veterans in Western Massachusetts since its establishment in 1952. The Soldier’s Home provides an array of services to over 2,000 veterans each year.

The bill, S. 2523 An Act relative to housing, operations, military service, and enrichment, also includes provisions that will:

  • Grant veterans preference in admission for scattered site housing units where no low-income family housing was developed, as well as admission to housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities in all communities;
  • Require housing authorities to exclude amounts of disability compensation paid by the federal government for the purpose of computing rent of a disabled veteran;
  • Provide a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of any soldier, sailor, and member of the National Guard or veteran who, during active duty service, suffered an injury or illness which was the proximate cause of death;
  • Provide veterans who have a 100% disability rating for service connected blindness a property tax exemption;
  • The expansion of the Public Service Scholarship to children of any military or service person missing in action and children of prisoners of war;
  • Allows employees of the Commonwealth who are members of the armed forces reserves and are ordered to service for more than 30 consecutive to be paid the regular base salary reduced by the amount received as base pay for military service.  It also preserves the seniority or accrued leave time;
  • Allows cities and towns to appoint a veterans agent for 3 year terms instead of the current 1 year term;
  • Establishes the Office of Veterans Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans Services;
  • Creates a post-deployment commission to study ways to improve services to veterans who have been deployed overseas;
  • Adds veteran status as a protected class under the statute prohibiting discrimination in employment.
The bill was passed by a unanimous vote of 37-0, and will now be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his signature.