The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Accessing Veterans Services cash assistance benefits during COVID-19, please share what's happening in your cities and towns

In the flurry of many emails and breaking news stories, we want to flag for you the very real challenge that low income MA veterans are facing, unable to easily access local Veterans Services Offices (VSOs) to apply for “Chapter 115” Veterans Services benefits. These are means-tested cash and medical benefits for both veterans and their dependents, funded 25% by localities and 75% by the state. Chapter 115 benefits are administered by local municipalities, making it especially hard for veterans and their dependents to access when local government is also shut down to in-person access. 

Please see yesterday’s Boston Globe article, and please amplify through social media.  

By comparison, DTA developed an excellent online SNAP application through DTAConnect over the years.  And in March, DTA immediately opened up DTAConnect for TAFDC and EAEDC cash applications. In contrast, there is noonline option (neither an application portal or even a downloadable form) available by the Department of Veterans Services.  Veterans and their dependents are relegated to finding a local VSO agent to help them, and many are closed for business.

 Here are some resources about the program:

·         A one page fact sheet by Veterans Legal Services (attached)

·         The online Chapter 115  benefits calculator, referred to in the Globe story. https://massvetben.org/

·         Chapter 115 benefits Self-Help Guide from the Veterans Legal Clinic, Harvard Law 

·         DTA’s SNAP for veteran’s webpage (DTA worked hard to create excellent materials online for veterans!)

·         MassLegalServices SNAP4Veterans webpage with outreach fliers 

Action step: We urge SNAP Coalition members to contact the local Veterans Services Offices to find out if they are actually open even if working remotely.  If you find someone, please ask a) how are veterans and dependents learning about the Chapter 115 benefits, b) what is the process for a veteran to apply - over the phone, by mail, by email, by fax, c) how is the VSO helping them do that, especially clients who do not have a fax or online capacities. 

Please report what you learn to Anna Richardson of Veterans Legal Services, anna@veteranslegalservices.org  and/or Betsy Gwin of Harvard Law’s  Veterans Legal Clinic. bgwin@law.harvard.edu

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