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About Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits

The History of Veterans Benefits in Massachusetts

In the 18th century, towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony provided assistance to their needy veterans of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), fought between France and Great Britain in North America. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts began providing for its veterans immediately following the Revolutionary War. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, the state legislature formalized the assistance provided to veterans by establishing MGL Chapter 115 and the Department of Veterans Services (DVS).

The Department of Veterans Services and your local Veterans Service Officer
MGL Chapter 115 requires each town or city to provide a Veterans Service Officer (VSO), as well as a Burial Agent and Graves Officer. These town/city employees support the needs of the local veterans within their town/city limits. Larger towns and cities are required to provide a full time VSO, while less populated towns and cities are given the option of having a part-time VSO, or joining together with other towns/cities to form a district, which would be serviced by a VSO who would be responsible for serving the multiple towns/cities within the formed district.

Who is eligible to receive MGL Chapter 115 Benefits?

Anyone qualifying as a veteran under the MGL Chapter 4, Section 7, clause 43, as amended by the Acts of 2005, Chapter 130, may be eligible for veterans’ benefits from the community in which they reside, provided that they meet the Income and Asset Limits for this need-based program. As of July 2018, the maximum monthly income allowed for an individual is $2,023.00, and for a couple is $2,743.00. Additional family members would change these amounts. However, applicants whose income is only slightly above allowable amounts may be eligible for medical benefits at a “spend down” adjustment amount. Asset limits for 2018 are $5,000.00 for an individual and $9,800.00 for a couple. Unlike many states, Massachusetts extends the coverage for Veterans’ Benefits beyond the veteran to his or her eligible dependents. These eligible dependents may also apply for veterans’ benefits. The surviving spouse of a deceased veteran, provided that the spouse was married to the veteran at the time of his or her death, is considered an eligible dependent. Living spouses, children, and parents might also qualify to receive benefits. For more information on program financial limits see About Income and Assets.

What Benefits are Available?

Benefits may be available in several forms. The most frequently asked about benefits are provided in the form of financial assistance to aid in meeting the cost of shelter, sustenance, and medical expenses. To determine the eligibility to receive such financial assistance, the VSO will ask the applicant to provide proof of certain expenses, as well as proof of income and assets. The VSO may require other supporting documents such as Marriage, Birth, or Death Certificates, and Discharge papers, depending on the situation. Ceilings are set for income and benefits based on the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) at 200%. Using the documents provided, the VSO will determine an allowable budget as outlined in 108 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (108 CMR). Once the applicant’s budget has been established, the VSO will determine if the applicant is eligible for any financial assistance. Other types of benefits may also be available depending on certain qualifying criteria.

How long can I expect to Receive Financial Assistance?

Recipients of financial assistance under MGL Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits may fall into several categories, which affect the status of their claims. For instance, a recipient who is not totally and permanently disabled or retired, would be expected to seek full time employment, and might expect to receive assistance for a brief period of time while they secure a job. A recipient who is totally and permanently disabled, or who is retired, might find themselves in a financial situation whereby their needs dictate that they continue to receive benefits indefinitely.

What are my responsibilities as a recipient of MGL Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits?

Full disclosure and timely updates for changes in circumstance are key responsibilities. For starters, during the application process you must fully disclose to the VSO the financial information and documentation requested. You must declare all income from all sources, and all possessed assets, to include bank accounts, IRAs, Certificates of Deposit, and available on hand cash. If you generate income from self-employment efforts, even if not on a regular basis, you must report this income when it is generated. You may be required to provide forms such as the IRS 1099 or Schedule C Form 1040 tax claim.

Once enrolled you must report any changes in circumstance to the VSO, to include any changes in the amount received from a reported income source, or any new sources of income. You must report any changes in medical or shelter expenses. This includes changes in rent, fees, mortgage, fire insurance, or taxes that are charged to you; or changes in your share of such expense if you begin sharing this cost with another. You must report increases or decreases in medical insurance premiums or other health care costs. These changes must be reported within one month of the change occurring.

When eligible, you must seek alternate sources of income and benefits such as VA Health Care, VA Compensation, VA Pension, Social Security Disability Income, Supplemental Security Income, or benefits from MGL Chapter 118 such as MassHealth and Prescription Advantage.

All recipients of MGL Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits are eligible to file for medical reimbursement for co-pays associated with doctor visits, hospital visits, and most medication expenses (allowable meds only, e.g. not Viagra). Reimbursement for dental visits and eye care may be available at the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy (DHCFP) allowable levels.
The bottom line is to keep the VSO in the know. The VSO can’t help you with things he or she doesn’t know. Although most recipients do not intentionally attempt to defraud the community and state, failure to disclose information about assets and/or income, or changes in reimbursed expenses can lead to benefits being discontinued, and possible action to recover benefits already paid.

How do I file claims for medical expenses?
Reimbursement for Medical expenses is the most commonly utilized Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 115 Veterans Benefits. Most Medical Costs are reimbursed at 100% of the out of pocket expense to the claimant, after all other payers, discounts, deductions, and rebates have been applied (e.g. Insurance, Assistance programs, etc). However, certain items such as Dental and Vision care are reimbursed based on tables created by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy (DHCFP) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This benefit is not guaranteed for Unemployed/Employable veterans.

Some examples of Out of pocket Medical Costs that are reimbursable are Doctor, Hospital, Dental, and Prescription co-pays. Also reimbursable, are Medical Insurance premiums. Dental Insurance premiums, however, are NOT reimbursable. Medical Insurance premiums include Employer Group Health Coverage,  Premiums for plans purchased through the Health Connector, Medigap Supplements, Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), and Stand Alone Drug Plans (Part D).  Also reimbursable is the Medicare Part B Premium ($134.00 in 2018 for a majority of first-time enrollees), that is deducted from Social Security Retirement Income.

No matter what the source of the medical cost, when filing Medical Claims you must provide supporting documentation. The supporting documentation must include certain items, depending on the type medical cost to be reimbursed. Medical Insurance premiums may be claimed by providing a copy of the paid monthly or quarterly bill, or by providing proof of an auto-debit from a banking account for the premium amount. When providing copies of bills, the bills must include the insured’s name, the coverage period, and the amount of the premium after all other payers, discounts, deductions, and rebates have been applied (e.g. assistance by state or federal programs).

 

Definitions of Massachusetts Veterans

M.G.L. ch.4, s.7, clause 43 (Massachusetts General Law Chapter 4, Section 7, Clause 43)

To be a “veteran” under Massachusetts law a person is required to have either:

  • 180 days of active duty service and be discharged or released under honorable conditions – OR –
  • 90 days of active duty service, one day of which is during “wartime” per the chart which follows, and be discharged or released under honorable conditions, except for Vietnam I, which requires 180 days of active duty service (see chart below).

Guard Members

For Guard Members to qualify they must have either:

  • 180 days and have been activated under Title 10 of the U.S. Code and have been discharged or released under honorable conditions or;
  • Members who were activated under Title 10 or Title 32 of the U.S. Code or Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 33, section 38, 40, and 41 must have served 90 days, at least one of which was during wartime, per the chart located on page 3. The members’ last discharge or release must be under honorable conditions.

Reservists

For Reservists to qualify, they must have been called to regular active duty, at which point their eligibility can be determined by the chart below.

Minimum service exception (for death or disability)

It is not necessary that an applicant has completed the minimum service for wartime or peacetime campaign if s/he served some time in the campaign and was awarded the Purple Heart, or suffered a service-connected disability per the discharge certificate, or died in the service under honorable conditions.

Training duty exception

Active service in the armed forces, as used in this clause, shall not include active duty for training in the Army or Air National Guard or active duty for training as a Reservist in the armed forces of the United States.

Merchant Marine

Any Merchant Marine who served for a period of 90 days in armed conflict between December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946, and who received an honorable discharge from the Army, Navy, or Coast Guard of the United States.

Eligible dependents

The following categories of persons may qualify as dependents eligible to receive veterans’ benefits:

  • Spouse of the veteran;
  • Widow or widower of the veteran;
  • Dependent parent of the veteran;
  • Any person who acted as a parent to the veteran for five years immediately preceding the commencement of the veteran’s wartime service;
  • Child of the veteran until his or her 19th birthday;
  • Child of the veteran between 19 years and 24 years of age while the child is attending high school, an institution of higher learning or some other accredited educational institution;
  • Child of the veteran 19 years of age or older who is mentally or physically unable to support him/herself and was affected by the disability prior to his/her 18th birthday;
  • Legally adopted children of the veteran.

Who is not eligible?

None of the following shall be deemed to be a veteran:

  • Any person, who at the time of entering into the armed forces of the United States, had as his/her intention to become a subject or citizen of the United States and withdrew his/her intention under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918;
  • Any person who was discharged from said armed forces on his/her own application or solicitation by reason of his/her being an enemy alien;
  • Any person who has been proven guilty of willful desertion;
  • Any person whose only service in the armed forces of the United States consists of his/her service as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or as a temporary member of the Coast Guard Reserve, or both;
  • Any person whose last discharge or release from the armed forces is dishonorable or other than honorable.
ERA of Service DATES Requirement for Veteran Status WWI 6-Apr-1917 11-Nov-1918 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. PEACETIME 12-Nov-1918 15-Sep-1940 180 days of regular active duty service and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. WWII (Merchant Marine: 7-Dec-1941 through 31-Dec-1946) 16-Sep-1940 25-Jul-1947 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. PEACETIME 26-Jul-1947 24-Jun-1950 180 days of regular active duty service and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. KOREA 25-Jun-1950 31-Jan-1955 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. Korean Defense Service Medal 28-Jul-1954 (to be determined later) 90 days of active duty service, last discharge under honorable conditions and the Korean Defense Service Medal VIETNAM I 1-Feb-1955 4-Aug-1964 180 days of regular active duty service and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. VIETNAM II 5-Aug-1964 7-May-1975 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. PEACETIME 8-May-1975 1-Aug-1990 180 days of regular active duty service and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. Lebanon Campaign * 25-Aug-1982 (to be determined later) 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. Grenada Campaign * 25-Oct-1983 15-Dec-1983 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. Panama Campaign * 20-Dec-1989 31-Jan-1990 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions. PERSIAN GULF 2-Aug-1990 (to be determined later) 90 days of active duty service, one (1) day during “wartime” and a last discharge or release under honorable conditions.* Naval and Marine DD Form 214 must indicate Expeditionary Medal. All DD Form 214’s must specify campaign: Lebanon, Granada, or Panama.

For GUARD MEMBERS to qualify they must have 180 days and have been activated under Title 10 of the U.S. Code -OR- Members who were activated under Title 10 or Title 32 of the U.S. Code or Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 33, sections 38, 40, and 41 must have 90 days, at least one of which was during wartime, per the above chart.

For RESERVISTS to qualify, they must have been called to regular active duty, at which point their eligibility can be determined by the above chart.

Minimum Service Exception (for Death or Disability): It is not necessary that an applicant have completed the minimum service for wartime or peacetime campaign if s/he served some time in the campaign and was awarded the Purple Heart, or suffered a service-connected disability per the Discharge Certificate, or died in the service under honorable conditions.

Training Duty Exception: Active duty service in the armed forces shall not include active duty for training in the Army or Air National Guard or active duty for training as a Reservist in the Armed Forces of the United States.

From the Office of William Francis Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts


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