Mayor wants direct pay from state  to veterans

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall

Recorder/Peter MacDonald Greenfield Mayor William Martin in his office in the town hall Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — The mayor would like to see the state start paying veterans their benefits directly so that the town can use the money for operating expenses.

Currently, about 100 veterans or veterans’ families receive close to $700,000 a year from Greenfield. That money is built into the town’s operating budget each year.

The state then reimburses the town 12 to 15 months later for 75 percent of the total.

Mayor William Martin said he will ask legislators to consider changing the process.

“The cost of taking care of our veterans has risen from $175,000 a year to $700,000 a year in just five years,” said Martin. “We can’t keep up that pace.”

Martin is proposing that because the state pays a good part of the costs anyway, but its payment schedule is just lagging, it should take over and send checks to veterans and their families directly.

“We’d still have a veterans agent who would process claims and help veterans,” said Martin. “We just wouldn’t have to worry about the financial end of it.”

Martin said Chapter 115, which reimburses towns in Massachusetts, has been a good program; it just isn’t good enough.

“It would be a little difficult on the state the first year, trying to catch up,” he said. “But after that, things would go smooth.”

He said mayors across the state are asking the same.

“If this were to happen, all communities across the state would have an expenditure surplus — we’d have between $600,000 and $700,000,” said Martin. “What a boost to local aid that would be.”

Martin said because so many veterans are now seeking aid and services, he is afraid some communities, possibly Greenfield included, will eventually have to choose which veterans or families to assist, because the town won’t be able to afford to help all who apply.

He said he would like to see the town’s Veterans Resource and Referral Center stay intact.

“I’m only talking about the payment method,” he said. “I think doing it this way would ease financial stress on the town, protect Chapter 115 credibility, create a funding surplus at the local level, and place responsibility for program and payment in proximity to the legislation that guides it.”

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