Senator Ken Donnelly

Providing aid to our veterans is one of the key services that the Commonwealth performs. State wide, the caseload for Veterans Services has increased by 40% in the last three years. With the economic downturn, the increasing number of older veterans living on fixed incomes, as well as younger veterans coming home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that the need for Veterans Services is as important as ever. The Town of Lexington has seen a dramatic increase in the number of veterans seeking services and aide from the Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO). From serving five veterans in 2002, to now serving approximately 91 veterans, not only has the need for monetary assistance increased, so has the administrative demands for the VSO. The need for these veterans ranges from helping with their food and living expenses, to getting health benefits, to providing job training and counseling. The position of the VSO in Lexington is evolving from one that was done in a few hours each week, to one that requires on average 15 hours of work. For example, each Veteran who applies for assistance needs to go through the intake and assessment process to determine what types of funds they need. Some of these veterans are homebound, therefore requiring the VSO to make home visits. Given both the increase in veterans seeking benefits, and the increase in administrative duties, the current level of funding does not meet the demand. The question is where can we find this funding? It is obvious that additional funding is needed for almost every social service program run by the Commonwealth as well as essential services in each town. Unfortunately, we cannot make more money just appear. This then leads to the age-old problem of who of our needy residents need assistance more? Do we take money away from our public schools that are educating our Commonwealth’s future so that the brave men and women who defended our country can receive the services they so greatly deserve? Or would it be more preferable that the funds for our veterans are taken from the Adult Day Health Centers, which serve thousands of adults across the state who cannot care for themselves independently, yet are not at the stage of needing to be placed in a nursing home? Neither of these options is acceptable in my opinion, nor any option that would take money from one service program to give to another. It is our responsibility as a Commonwealth to help our neediest and most vulnerable residents. The problem the Commonwealth faces is a lack of revenue. Without generating increased revenue, we will continue to have to make the difficult decision of who needs our help more, those with mental disabilities or veterans, children in need of a safe learning environment, or elders who need living assistance? Instead of only looking at how we can cut funding, we must start looking at how we can generate more revenue. This includes continuing successful initiatives to bring new businesses to Massachusetts, as well as reviewing our tax structure to effectively pay for the services we need. There is currently a bill before the Senate to address this. Senate Bill 1416, An Act to Invest in Our Communities, would increase the income tax while at the same time increasing the personal deductions, holding down tax increases for middle and working class families. The net revenue increase could then be used to fund programs like Veterans’ Services, without having to take funding away from other critical programs. Sharing scarce and diminishing resources among our vulnerable residents does not reflect the kind of Commonwealth we wish to be. It’s time to have a real discussion about how we fund critical services in a fair and sustainable manner.



Senator Donnelly represents the

Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts

State Senate. He currently

serves as Senate Chairman of the

Joint Committee on State Administration

and Regulatory Oversight. If you

would like to contact Senator Donnelly

or his staff, they can be reached at

their State House office by calling 617-


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