July 29, 2022
Senator Pacheco Announces MA Legislature Enacts Bipartisan Veterans’ Home Reform Bill, Legislation To Improve Oversight, Management, And Access To Care For Those Who Served
BOSTON – Dean of the Massachusetts Senate Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) has announced that the Veterans’ Home Reform bill – bipartisan legislation designed to implement transformational changes to the Commonwealth’s statewide veteran care system – was enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature following its passage by the Senate during formal session on Thursday. Now on the Governor’s desk, An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes ensures Massachusetts soldiers’ homes are federally licensed as health care facilities, mandates increased state management, and provides independent oversight and accountability of veterans’ homes management.
“I am extremely pleased that we in the Senate have taken favorable action on bipartisan legislation that implements vital changes to the structure of our Commonwealth’s veteran care system,” said Senator Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. “Apart from providing improved oversight and overall management, this bill also requires annual reviews and reporting by the Department of Veterans Services that will help ensure our statewide system is accommodating the needs of veterans from every region of Massachusetts. I am proud we in the Senate have sent the bipartisan Veterans’ Home Reform bill to the Governor’s desk for final approval and would like to thank and congratulate Senator Mike Rush, Senator John Velis, and all my colleagues in the legislature who contributed to this critical effort.”
The Veterans’ Home Reform bill passed Thursday (H.5106) creates a direct line of authority by creating a Secretary of Veterans’ Services position, with a corresponding executive office in the Commonwealth, as the ultimate appointing authority of the superintendents of the two state-operated homes. It also creates a newly constituted 19-member Veterans’ Homes Council to advise the Secretary to ensure the health and well-being of veteran residents. The council is tasked with reviewing and approving the local Board of Trustees’ nomination for superintendent of their respective home before submitting the final candidate to the Secretary for consideration of appointment.
“From streamlining the chain of command and clarifying the responsibilities of the superintendent, to elevating the veterans Secretary to cabinet level and expanding the Department of Public Health's role, this legislation contains important improvements for our Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes,” said Senator John C. Velis (D-Westfield), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “I want to thank my fellow conferees for their work throughout this process and for their commitment to getting a piece of legislation to the Governor’s desk this session. At the same time, we know that this work must continue. That is why I am so grateful to Senate President Spilka for appointing me to lead the Senate working group that will oversee implementation of this legislation, identify what we need to improve on further, and continue to work to ensure that the tragedy that took place at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home never happens again.”
In addition to the Veterans Home Reform Bill passed Thursday, the Massachusetts Legislature has also enacted legislation originally reported out of the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight establishing a $600 million bond authorization to improve the Commonwealth’s veteran home facilities and services. Finalized earlier this legislative session in May 2021, An Act financing the reconstruction of the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke (H.3770) included bond authorizations of $400 million for Holyoke Veterans' Home facility upgrades, and of $200 million to improve regional equity by expanding access for veterans not primarily served by facilities in Chelsea or Holyoke.
“In combination with the substantial resources allocated for veteran services in legislation reported out of the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight earlier this session, this legislation will better ensure Massachusetts veterans throughout the Commonwealth have better access to high-quality services and care,” added Senator Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight. “I am proud to have advocated for the passage of these critical reforms, as well as the inclusion of an additional $200 million bond authorization for improving veterans’ services in underserved regions, such as Southeastern Massachusetts. The dedicated Massachusetts service members who answered the call to serve their country undoubtedly deserve the highest quality care and services we can provide.”
The Veterans’ Home Reform Bill passed Thursday also makes the superintendent the administrative head of a state-operated veterans’ home, prescribing them with concrete responsibilities. It includes critical qualifications for the role, requiring that the individual selected be a licensed nursing home administrator, and be a veteran or have experience in the management of veterans in a long-term care or nursing home facility. The medical director of each state-operated veterans’ home will recommend to the superintendent all medical staff, physicians, and nurses at the respective home for their review for hiring.
To further protect the health and safety of residents and staff, the report requires all state-operated veterans’ homes be licensed as nursing homes by the Department of Public Health (DPH), a provision that was not previously enforced in state law. It also directs the department to conduct inspections of the homes biannually—and monthly during a declared state of emergency—with a timeframe for when violations must be resolved. Each state-operated veterans’ home must apply and maintain certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to participate in such programs on behalf of their residents, as well as adhere to federal guidelines for trauma-informed care.
Having been passed by the House and Senate, An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.