BOSTON – State Representative Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, has renewed his commitment to Massachusetts veterans by once again backing the passage of the BRAVE Act.
Senate Bill 2632, An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, was enacted by the House of Representative on a unanimous vote of 150-0 on July 27. Representative Hunt also supported the original version of the BRAVE Act when it came before the House of Representatives for a vote on May 23.
The final bill includes compromise language reached by a six-member conference committee that worked to resolve the differences between earlier versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate. “In our neck of the woods, with Joint Base Cape Cod employing active duty and reserves personnel, as well as being home for many retired military, passage of the BRAVE Act is key to providing new benefits and clarifying past benefits. Massachusetts does more than any other state to take care of our military personnel at all stages of their careers” said Representative Hunt.
The reconciled language in the BRAVE Act makes corrective changes to veteran diversion, in an effort to shore up changes made by this year’s criminal justice reform legislation, which was signed into law on April 13. The changes grant diversion-eligible veterans a 30 day continuance on charges for first-time offenses. For first-time OUI offenses, the veteran must prove their offense was related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or substance abuse disorder suffered as a result of their military service. A veteran will not be eligible for diversion for an OUI if they are charged with any additional offenses stemming from the OUI.
The bill doubles state funding assistance for indigent veterans’ burial costs from $2,000 to $4,000, while increasing the property tax exemption for veterans who perform volunteer work for their home community from $1,000 to $1,500. The bill also reduces the residency requirement for veterans and surviving spouses living in Massachusetts to qualify for real estate tax exemptions from five consecutive years of residency to two years.
An additional provision contained in the BRAVE Act gives cities and towns the option to adjust veterans property tax abatements on an annual basis. The amount of the increase cannot exceed the cost of living increase for that year, as calculated by the Consumer Price Index.
The BRAVE Act also:
The Senate voted to accept the conference committee report on July 26. Following a final vote on enactment in the Senate, the BRAVE Act will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his review and signature.