PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO INCREASE VETERANS' SERVICES AND EMPLOYMENT
Plan includes new business partnerships designed to boost employment opportunities for returning vets.
BOSTON – Wednesday, November 2, 2011 – Governor Deval Patrick today declared November 2011 as “Hire a Veteran Month” and announced new initiatives and resources to support the hiring of Massachusetts veterans, while increasing access to health care, transportation, education and housing services.
“Massachusetts is proud to support our veterans, and these new initiatives will increase access to jobs and critical services,” said Governor Patrick. “By partnering with the business community, we can encourage and increase the hiring of more Massachusetts veterans, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Governor Patrick today also launched an Interagency Task Force on Hiring Veterans and directed all Executive Branch agencies to promote the benefits of hiring veterans. The announcement builds on existing partnerships and business collaborations initiated by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who chairs the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services.
“As Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in providing services to our veterans, we’re still thinking of new ways to further support returning veterans and veterans of all eras,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “Hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business because veterans are reliable, diligent, and always ready to get the job done.”
As part of the initiatives, the Patrick-Murray Administration is partnering with major trade associations to encourage them to hire veterans and circulate information on veterans benefits. The Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE), the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Mass High Tech Council, the Defense Technology Initiative, and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts are among the growing list of major trade associations committed to working with the Administration and the Massachusetts veteran community.
“Collectively MACCE members represent thousands of employers in Massachusetts,” said MACCE Predient Thomas J. O’Rourke. “We encourage them to take advantage of the Administration's initiatives for returning service men and women. There is no better way to thank our veterans for their service than by hiring them to meaningful employment.”
Governor Patrick plans to file legislation as part of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal to provide the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) with $500,000 in funding to train and employ veterans who qualify for state benefits. Through the Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T) program, MassMEP also plans to immediately use $200,000 in existing state funds to offer a new training class for veterans during this fiscal year.
“Programs like M.O.S.T. are vitally important to our communities and to our returning veterans,” said Jack Healy, Director of Operations at the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “While the national unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is 9.1%, the unemployment rate for returning veterans between the ages of 18-24 is about 21.1%. This high percentage of unemployment is due partly to stereotyping veterans’ fitness for employment, such as inadequate technology skills and lack of education. M.O.S.T. training helps veterans overcome such stereotypes and equips them to fill unmet skills needs in our advanced manufacturing sector.”
The Administration will also offer Massachusetts businesses an option to post an official state logo designating the company as a “Proud Employer of Massachusetts Veterans,” if the company employs a certain percentage of their workforce with Massachusetts veterans.
“Massachusetts leads the country in veteran services, and I am proud to say we never take that fact for granted,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “These latest proposals by the Administration will add to the valuable resources and opportunities available to our veterans. From the Welcome Home Bill, which provides affordable life insurance and college tuition waivers, to property tax exemptions and increased pay for military families, we will continue to do what’s right for our veterans and service members.”
"Whether they served decades ago or more recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the veterans of the Commonwealth deserve our help and support wherever and whenever we can be of assistance,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “We need to show our veterans we care about them when they come home and that we won’t forget them even years after they return.”
“This comprehensive package will ensure continued access to employment, housing, benefits and services for our veterans and their families,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. “Our initiative reflects the Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to ending homelessness and achieve and sustaining health individuals and communities.”
“These initiatives affirm that Massachusetts is a national leader in providing services and supports to our veterans and families,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee. “With Veterans' Day approaching, we are going beyond parades and memorials by insuring access to the important benefits and services our veterans have earned though their service and sacrifice.”
“We are pleased to work across agencies and with employers to bolster resources for Veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce,” said Secretary of Labor & Workforce Development, Joanne F. Goldstein. “At the state’s One-Stop Career Centers, Local Veterans' Employment Representatives provide Veterans with individualized career development and training drawing on the career center and other resources to maximize employment opportunities.”
Governor Patrick will recognize the hiring efforts of a Massachusetts based company during a Veterans Day ceremony November 11 at the State House. Going forward, the Governor will then recognize companies annually through the newly created “Governor’s Outstanding Massachusetts Veterans Employer Award” and to honor companies that show initiative, commitment, and proven hiring records for veterans and military families.
Along with the Patrick-Murray Administration’s plans to partner with the business community, Governor Patrick also announced plans to propose up to $2.86 million in his upcoming budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013. In addition to proposing $500,000 in funding to MassMEP, Governor Patrick will file legislation that will allow the Administration to:
- Provide $700,000 per year to support the Department of Public Health’s Veterans Quit Smoking Patch Initiative, building on the success of two previous rounds of patch giveaways to veterans and their families.
- Fully fund the annuities account so that DVS can eliminate the pro-rating on the first payments to 100% disabled veterans and gold star parents. With more than $20 million included in current Fiscal Year 2012 budget, an additional $652,000 above the projected Fiscal Year 2013 funding for annuity payments will end pro-rating payments.
- Reimburse cities and towns 100% for the homeless shelter benefits DVS provides, relieving the burden on cities and towns that currently cover the cost. An additional estimated cost of $872,000 will be included in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal to fully fund these benefits.
- Extend the property tax abatement for Gold Star Spouses. Currently spouses are only exempt for the first five years with a cap of $2,500 for the remaining years; however, this bill, estimated to cost $135,000 in the first year, would make the tax exemption permanent until the Gold Star dies or remarries.
Today's announcement also included a $325,000, two year, annual grant to DVS that will provide community based outreach treatment to veterans in the Metro Boston area, which complements Lt. Governor Murray's work as chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services, Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, and the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness. Awarded by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, this grant will provide support to veterans who are in need of psychiatric evaluation, mental health services, peer support, and emergency shelter. With this funding, four Peer Outreach Specialists will be hired to work at DVS and perform one-on-one outreach to homeless veterans.
Included in the comprehensive plans released today, the Patrick-Murray Administration plans to:
- Partner with the Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles to provide an optional veteran designation on the front of all driver’s licenses and state identification cards to increase awareness about available resources and benefits. With this feature, first responders will be alerted of all veterans and DVS will notify veterans of the benefits they may not have accessed.
- Support the collaboration of military, state, and community resources to establish a Military Child Educational Awareness Program, which is an expansion of the Massachusetts National Guard’s successful pilot program for military children in the Massachusetts school system.
- Create a Student Veterans sub-committee of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services.
- Create a Veterans’ Re-Employment and Training sub-committee of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services.
“I want to commend the Patrick-Murray Administration and Veterans Secretary Nee for their continued efforts in providing services and programs to our veterans,” said John Regan, chief of staff to Senator Mike Rush, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “This employment initiative comes at a critical time for both our veterans and the economy as a whole. This program is another example of why Massachusetts leads the nation in supporting our veterans.”
“I applaud the Patrick-Murray Administration for taking steps to put our veterans back to work,” said Representative James E. Vallee, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “A steady job can play an integral role in a veteran’s transition to civilian life. These initiatives are efficient and effective ways to create a public-private partnership that will incentivize hiring veterans and celebrate local businesses that do so.”
As part of this comprehensive plan, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Office of Disability Policy and Programs will work to ensure that disabled veterans receive access to employment, training, retraining, and an accessible workplace.
Click here learn more about the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services. Click here to learn more about the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services.