Basic rights and benefits of the Veterans' Services program
Veterans' Services benefits are state- and locally funded cash and medical assistance. These benefits are for Massachusetts residents who are financially needy veterans, dependents, and/or parents of veterans. Cities and towns have a legal obligation to make sure they provide their share (25%) of funding to meet the needs of all eligible veterans and dependents who apply.
Who is eligible?
- A spouse or widow(er) of the veteran, if not divorced;
- Veterans' children under 18;
- Veterans' children who are 18-23 years old while in high school or college; and
- Veterans' children who are older than 18, if they are totally disabled and were disabled before they turned 18 years old;
- The mother or father of a veteran, or any other person who has "acted as a parent" for five years before the veteran's military service.
Who is a veteran?
For Veterans' Services benefits, a veteran is any person (male or female) who has actively served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force or full time National Guard duty and received a discharge under honorable conditions.
In general, veterans who served during wartime must have served for at least 90 days. Veterans who served during peacetime must have served for at least 180 days. Reservists must have been called to regular active duty and served for 90 days if service was during wartime or 180 days if service was during peacetime. Active duty does not include active duty for training in the Army or Air National Guard or active duty for training as a reservist.
The minimum service requirements do not apply to a veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart, or whose discharge certificate shows the veteran suffered a service-connected disability, or died in the service under honorable conditions.
What are the financial criteria & monthly benefits?
Financial criteria (resource limits)
To be eligible, your resources (cash on hand, bank accounts, and other available resources) must be less than the following amounts:
Individual $3,200 Couple $3,200 Family $7,000
If you have life insurance the limits are lower.
The monthly benefit depends on your living situation and special needs as well as the income you get from other sources.
A veteran with no other income might get the following amounts of monthly cash benefits:
Number of Persons Level*
Individual without shelter costs $600 Individual with shelter costs $1,140 Couple $1,340 1 Parent, one child $1,410 2 Parents, one child $1,610 2 Parents, 2 children $1,880 Additional amount if retired
*These are just examples. Veterans' Benefits vary based on shelter expenses, disability, and other factors. If your income is higher than the resource level limits, you will be denied cash assistance but you may be able to get medical assistance.
What are the other benefits?
In addition to monthly cash assistance, you may get:
- Medical coverage (similar to MassHealth) as well as transportation to medical services if no other transportation is available;
- Certain Catastrophe or Disaster Benefits depending on need;
- Mortgage, Rental, or Utility Arrears;
- Certain Emergency Residence Repairs;
- Certain Moving Expenses for moves within Massachusetts and transportation for moves out of Massachusetts when there are compelling circumstances.
You can also apply for food stamp/nutrition assistance (SNAP) through the Department of Transitional Assistance, in addition to these benefits.
How do I apply?
You can get applications for Veterans' Services benefits from the Veterans' Agent in the local city or town where the veteran or family lives. Every veteran and his/her dependent has the right to apply, whether or not he/she appears to be eligible. Every city or town must have a Veterans' Agent to take the application, accept proofs and send the application to the state office for review. Find the Veterans' Agent in your town.
To apply, you need to sign an application and bring proof of eligibility. This proof includes:
- military discharge papers (the agent can check your military status on line),
- proof of residence (such as a rent receipt, unless homeless),
- wage stubs,
- bank statements,
- birth certificates of dependents.
In some cases, you can get emergency benefits even if you cannot bring all the proofs you need with you when you apply.
If you are homeless, you cannot be denied just because you do not have an address.
What are my rights if I am denied benefits?
Any applicant or recipient of Veterans' Services benefits has the right to appeal any denial, reduction (lowering), or termination (ending) of benefits. You must send your appeal to the Secretary of Veterans’ Services in Boston within 21 days of the denial or termination notice. If you are appealing reduction or termination of benefits, you should continue to get your benefits while you are appealing.
You have the right to bring a friend, advocate, or lawyer to the hearing with you. If you need legal advice or a referral, call the Legal Services office in your area.
You can find the laws governing Veterans Services in the Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 115 and the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) Section 108.
Legal Services Intake and Referral Programs
Shelter Legal Services
Legal Advocacy & Resource Center
Statewide 800-342-5297; 617-603-1700
Massachusetts Justice Project
Western Mass 413-533-2660; 800-639-1209
Central Mass 508-831-9888; 888-427-8989
Neighborhood Legal Services
Merrimack Valley 978-686-6900; 888-657-2889
North Shore 781-599-7730; 800-747-5056
New Center for Legal Advocacy
Southeastern Mass 800-244-9023
Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Created January 2009