ROMNEY SIGNS LEGISLATION EXPANDING MILITARY BENEFITS
Says new law is a fitting Veterans Day tribute to those who have served
Governor Mitt Romney today signed legislation that expands benefits to veterans, members of the Massachusetts National Guard and their families. Romney signed the bill into law at a State House ceremony honoring Massachusetts veterans as well as those currently serving in the military.
"Our men and women in uniform carry on a brave and noble tradition of service to their state and country," said Romney. "They sacrifice much through their service, and I'm pleased that through this package of benefits our state has properly recognized all that military families do to keep us safe."
Earlier this year, Romney filed legislation to make education more affordable for returning Guard members, increase the benefit paid to families in the event of a member's death in the line of duty and establish an annual surviving spouse benefit. Romney also proposed to increase the per diem compensation that Guard members receive while on state active duty and have the state cover life insurance premiums for those on active federal duty.
The Legislature supported the Governor's proposal and expanded it to include other benefits. The bill Romney signed today:
* Exempts Guard members from paying any fees while attending a Massachusetts public college or university. Already, they receive free tuition, but fees can account for as much as three quarters of the cost of a college education. The state, not the schools, will pay for the cost of the waivers;
* Increases the death benefit paid to families of Guard members killed in the line of duty from $5,000 to $100,000;
* Establishes a check-off on the state tax form to help members of the Guard and armed forces reserves called to active duty after September 11, 2001 and their families defray the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses;
* Increases the per diem compensation that Guard members receive while on state active duty from $75 to $100;
* Provides that the state pay half the monthly life insurance premiums for Guard members;
* Creates a new $2,000 benefit for Gold Star spouses and increases the Gold Star parents' benefit from $1,500 to $2,000;
* Provides a $1,000 bonus to Massachusetts servicemen and women who have served on active duty post-9/11 in Afghanistan or Iraq and a $500 bonus to those who serve at least six months on active duty in other locations;
* Grants high school diplomas to veterans who left school for good upon being drafted or enlisting in World War II, Korea or Vietnam wars.
"We must ask ourselves what we can do for our veterans here in the Commonwealth, and I strongly believe this landmark legislation brings us a step closer to a fitting answer," said Senator Stephen M. Brewer, Senate Chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.
"With this bill, we have cemented our pledge to those who protect us, the men and women of the armed forces - past, present and future - for they deserve nothing less," said Representative Anthony J. Verga, House Chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.