Local Government and Politics

Saugus Rep. Donald Wong backs legislation for veterans

SAUGUS — State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) is backing legislation that would improve benefits offered to Massachusetts veterans.

The Brave Act would allow municipalities to designate a spot for veterans parking at their city or town hall, require employers to allow veterans to take Veterans Day off — with or without pay — and allow combat medics to use their military training and experience to receive EMT certification without repeating duplicative classes, among other benefits.

The Brave Act, also known as House Bill 4525, an act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation, and enforcement, was passed by the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote of 150-0 at the end of May.

It would double the state assistance for indigent veterans’ burial costs to $4,000.

Veterans who volunteer in their community would be eligible for additional property tax exemptions, and would adjust residency requirements for vets and surviving spouses to qualify for real estate tax exemptions, reducing the amount of time they must reside in the state from five consecutive years to two.

The Brave Act would update the military campaign eligibility for the Welcome Home Bonus, which is given by the State Treasurer’s office to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism discharged under honorable conditions.

Service members who served active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan receive $1,000 and those who served six or more months active service stateside or outside the United States receive $500.

Under the legislation, a special commission would be established to study the cost and feasibility of exempting veterans from tuition and fees when attending a public university.

The Department of Veterans Services would be required to maintain and publish a list of law firms and organizations that offer pro bono legal representation for veterans.

Parents and surviving guardians of those who died in service to the country would receive a real estate credit on their property, and families of deceased service members would receive a $1,000 stipend for the Welcome Home Bonus.

Recipients of the Bronze Star would be eligible for Bronze Star license plates and qualifying individuals whose vehicles are owned by trusts, partnerships, or corporations would be eligible for Gold Star Family license plates through the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The Senate previously approved its own version of the Brave Act on May 3. The House and Senate will now attempt to reconcile differences between the two bills and reach an agreement on a final bill that will be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.

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