Thursday, August 16, 2012
New Web Portal MassVetsAdvisor.org helps Berkshire County Veterans and their Families Access Benefits and Programs
PITTSFIELD – At Berkshire area veterans’ support agency Solider On Thursday morning, Congressman Richard Neal joined leaders from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Massachusetts Broadband Institute, and the Department of Veterans’ Services to showcase the new web portal www.MassVetsAdvisor.org.
Developed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, MassVetsAdvisor is a cutting-edge web portal that offers enhanced access to services and support for Massachusetts Veterans and their families. The first of its kind in the nation, the portal combines nearly 300 state and federal benefits in one location, including financial benefits, programs for education, counseling, employment, health care, and access to local veterans’ agents.
“We were pleased to have the opportunity to develop this portal,” said MassTech CEO Pamela Goldberg. “This is another example of the Commonwealth and the Patrick Administration’s commitment to our Veterans and military families, and we look forward to every Berkshire County Veteran logging on.” Local veterans gathered at Soldier On Thursday for a demonstration of the new web portal with Congressman Neal, Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Secretary Coleman Nee, MassTech CEO Pamela Goldberg, MBI Director Judith Dumont, and local officials including Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
“I am pleased to stand with my partners in state government and announce this crucial program to help create jobs for our Veterans,” said Congressman Neal. “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created over one million new Veterans, many of whom will be in our care for decades to come. We have a responsibility to honor these brave men and women and today marks an important step.”
In 2010, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute received supplemental funding from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration to create a web application that would help spur the adoption of broadband across the commonwealth. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute received this grant in the amount of $1 million as part of the State Broadband Initiative, a program created by federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
“Through the creative cooperation of the Patrick Murray administration, Berkshire delegation, and Congressman Richie Neal, government on the state and national level have ensured that Veterans at every sector of Massachusetts will be able to access services, applications, opportunities, and benefits from the privacy of their home,” said Jack Downing, President and CEO of Soldier On, “They can use their iPhones, their tablets, their laptops, and I believe that this is an example of government serving the people who gave so much to our country.”Mass VetsAdvisor streamlines comprehensive data from state and federal resources and lists the benefits and services each veteran is qualified for, including an "action plan" to apply for specific benefits. Veterans will be able to print, email, save or forward the action plan to the Veteran Services Officer in their hometown for additional assistance.
Some of the nearly 300 services accessible through the portal include:
- The Welcome Home Bonus, a state program which enables eligible veterans to receive $1,000, $500, or $250 upon return from duty, depending on their deployment or stateside service;
- The Post 9/11 GI Bill, a new education benefit program for service members and veterans who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001;
- The Veterans’ Employment and Training Services program, which provides career assistance for veterans at One-Stop Career Centers throughout the Commonwealth at no charge; and the
- Veterans’ License Plate Designation, which is offered to any Massachusetts veteran for use on a car or motorcycle. Proceeds from the veterans’ plates benefit the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea
- and Holyoke.
“Massachusetts Veterans have bravely served our country, and we need to ensure these men and women have access to the benefits they have rightfully earned,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray, chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services. “We thank the Obama Administration, Congressman Neal and the rest of our congressional delegation for their support as we promote this new web portal to help veterans across the Commonwealth more easily access the benefits they deserve.”
“Massachusetts is the national leader when it comes to providing benefits and services to our veterans,” said Secretary Coleman Nee. “I am proud to join Congressman Neal and Soldier On to highlight MassVetsAdvisor-- a one-stop resource to help veterans and their families access the finest benefits and services available to them -- all in one convenient location.”
“Readjusting to civilian life has its own set of challenges,” said Kyle Toto, a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Afghanistan and led this project at the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, “Veterans have so much to do when they return home, and don’t have the time to search endlessly for their benefits. Mass VetsAdvisor.org is a valuable resource that allows Veterans and their families find their benefits from the comfort of their homes and on their own time.”
Development of the portal was a collaborative effort with many leaders in the veterans’ support community, to ensure quality and accuracy. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, to develop the website as an easy-to-use resource for Veterans and their family members.