Legislation Proposed to Change How Veterans Get Benefits

Officials in Greenfield, Massachusetts and elsewhere are calling for a change in benefits’ payments to veterans. Currently, cities and towns collectively pay close to $70 million a year in benefits. municipalities are then reimbursed 75%t of that by the state, but as long as 12 to 18 months later. Legislation on beacon hill would change that to pay veterans electronically, directly by the state. Charles Loven, the veterans service officer for Greenfield and Leyden, says that would free up funds for other critical services. He adds the current system puts a strain on many communities, especially when unexpected payments arise.

“Somebody who’s been laid off and their unemployment’s gone. they get about $1,400 a month. so if they move into a small town, that town has got to come up with $1,400 a month times ten months before that town gets any reimbursements.”

Representative Steven Kulik of Worthington is sponsoring the legislation, which the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s is supporting. Jeff Beckwith is its executive director. He says the state paying up front would have a significant impact.

“That would create a major advantage for cities and towns, in that they not have to wait so long for the reimbursement, therefore there would be a cash flow benefit to local taxpayers.”

But Loven says he worries the proposal could result in fewer veterans agents, making it more difficult for vets to get the help they need.