Scanlon bill would benefit veterans, Gold Star families

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Massachusetts state Rep. Adam Scanlon, D-Bristol, is proposing a $10 million fund that would be used to help veterans affected by COVID-19.

Scanlon testified last week before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs about the bill. Any veteran financially affected by COVID-19 from March 2020 to the present or who had a dependent affected would be eligible for funding to spend it on “groceries, health care supplies or other necessities, delivery services for the foregoing, for emergency financial relief, hospitalization assistance, medical care or treatment, or any other COVID-19-related assistance,” according to the bill’s text.

The state can afford to establish the fund since $5 billion more in tax revenues were collected last year than anticipated, Scanlon said.

Scanlon also asked the committee to show favor on a bill that would exempt the state’s 3,000 former prisoners of war from paying state income tax. The bill was favorably reported out of the Joint Committee on Revenue during the last session, Scanlon said.

The Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs also heard testimony from Gold Star widows who asked the committee to remove a clause that ends their Gold Star benefits and those of their children if they remarry.

Maggie Brothers lost her husband nine years ago.

“Benefits like these allow us to grieve the next chapter, which by the way are not the next chapters we want to write,” Brothers told the committee.

And ironically, Gold Star families are eligible for the benefits again if the second marriage ends in divorce, Brothers said.

“This is a law that should have never been written,” Brothers testified. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Massachusetts to lead the country in this area.

Crystal Clunie lost her husband Joe in 2014 and said she has found love again. The law is keeping her from moving on, Clunie told the committee.

“It doesn’t allow me to live the full life that I know Joe would want me and our children to have, the one I promised I would find a way to provide,” Clunie said.

Erin Vasselian lost her 27-year-old husband Danny on Dec. 23, 2013.

“I would be deeply saddened if this was the area where the government chose to save money,” she said.

The committee did not vote on any legislation.





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