Final FY24 Budget from Legislature Includes Changes to Veterans’ Bonus Eligibility Filed by Representative Jack Patrick Lewis, Senator John Velis, and State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg
As part of their ongoing commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and supporting veterans, Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (Framingham), Senator John Velis (Westfield), and State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg filed H.3518/S.2358, “An Act promoting equality in veterans’ bonus eligibility” earlier this legislative session. After advocating throughout the Legislature’s FY24 budget process, the same language was included in the final budget that the Legislature passed and sent to Governor Healey’s desk.
This legislation would ensure that veterans who were dishonorably discharged from service due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status, would be eligible for bonuses from the Veterans’ Bonus Division in the Office of the Treasurer.
This legislation builds off of a Senate initiative in the FY23 budget that made veterans in our Commonwealth who were dishonorably discharged under the now defunct federal policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, eligible for state veteran benefits. The language in the FY24 budget ensures that those veterans who experienced past discrimination are also eligible for bonuses from the Veterans’ Bonus Division.
Veterans living in Massachusetts who are covered by the bill would still be granted the same benefits and bonuses that they are entitled to on a federal level. “This initiative is crucial, in both advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and protecting and supporting our Commonwealth's veterans,” said Representative Jack Patrick Lewis. “It is important to ensure that the consequences of these former discriminatory policies are eliminated. I am grateful to Senator John Velis and Treasurer Deb Goldberg for their steadfast partnership on this issue, and to our colleagues for including this bill language in the final budget.” “This measure confronts discrimination and ensures that the service and sacrifice of all our veterans is rightfully recognized, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status,” said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg. “This is an important step toward achieving equity and fairness by making sure that service members receive the bonuses and benefits they deserve.” “For far too long, thousands of courageous individuals have been told that they are not worthy of the same benefits that their comrades and counterparts earned. That their service, and their sacrifice is not worth the same. All because of who they are and who they love,” said Senator Velis, who is Chair of the Veterans & Federal Affairs Committee. “The years of trauma, abuse and harassment caused by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell cannot be undone. But we must do everything in our power to ensure that LGBTQ Veterans across the Commonwealth have the same access to benefits and services that other Veterans have.” With the language included the final FY2024 budget from the Legislature, it will now go to Governor Healey’s desk for her consideration.