The history of the U.S. military traces it roots back to the Continental Army, first raised by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in 1775. It’s no surprise that these ties to the Armed Forces remain strong to this day, and many veterans and their families call the Bay State home, enjoying several benefits earned by their honorable service to the nation.
Massachusetts offers unique benefits to its resident veterans that can help with bills and budgets. A veterans’ annuity – provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the Department of Veterans’ Services – in the amount of $2,000 (payable on August 1 and February 1 in two installments of $1,000 each) is available for certain veterans and their spouses, as well as Gold Star Parents. Additionally, veterans who were domiciled in Massachusetts immediately prior to entry in the armed forces are also eligible for a veterans’ bonus, including a bonus for WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and a “Welcome Home” bonus for those serving since 9/11/2001. In case of the death of a veteran, the spouse and children, mother or father, brother or sister or other dependents of the deceased veteran (in that order) are eligible for the bonus.
Accessing quality health care is often a primary concern for veterans and their families, and the VA Boston Healthcare System consists of the Jamaica Plain campus, located in Boston’s Longwood Medical Community; the West Roxbury campus, located on the Dedham line; and the Brockton campus, located 20 miles south of Boston in the city of Brockton. These facilities offer a wide range of primary and specialty care, as well as regular events and special support care for homeless veterans, returning service members, female veterans, and caregivers of veterans. Additionally, veterans and their families can access care at several community-based outpatient clinics, such as those in Boston (Causeway Street), Framingham, Lowell, Plymouth, and Quincy.
On the campus of the West Roxbury campus, veterans will also find the Fisher House Boston, a 20-suite home away from home where military families can stay while a loved one is receiving treatment at a VA Boston Healthcare facility. The Boston location was the 46th Fisher House built in the nation, and any veteran or military personnel, wartime or peacetime, is eligible to have a family member stay at one of these homes at no cost.
For senior veterans looking for long-term care and housing, there are two homes available, one in Holyoke and one in Chelsea. Established in 1882, the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea is a multifaceted health care facility that offers pastoral care, residential care, social work services, and supportive care services. The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke offers quality health care, hospice care, full-time residential accommodations, an on-site dental clinic, veterans’ assistance center, and a multi-service outpatient department.
For single, honorably discharged veterans facing homelessness, the commonwealth maintains several permanent housing units located in Bedford, Boston, Gardner (two locations), New Bedford, and, Worcester. These locations offer affordable rental housing and private rooms to eligible veterans. For immediate help, food, shelter, and counseling while trying to obtain a permanent living situation, veterans are encouraged to come to the New England Center for Homeless Veterans located at 17 Court Street Boston, any time day or night seven days a week.
There are two state veterans’ cemeteries in Massachusetts (Agawam and Winchendon) where eligible veterans can be buried at no cost (there is a nominal fee for the burial of spouses and eligible dependents). These locations host several annual events to honor Massachusetts veterans. There is also a National Cemetery located in Barnstable County on Cape Cod, approximately 65 miles southeast of Boston and adjacent to the Otis Air Force Base. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all eligible members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial.
For additional veterans benefits or more information on any of these programs, visit the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services website.
Written By Megan Hammons