The Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services (DVS) has announced changes to an important benefits program to make sure that veterans and their families can receive the support they need through the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes include calculating income in a way that helps more people qualify for benefits and increasing the level of assets people can have while receiving help from the program.
DVS provides cash assistance to eligible veterans, as well as their dependents, under a safety net program called Chapter 115. The Chapter 115 program offers monthly payments to low-income veterans and their families. The program also offers one-time emergency payments.
Eligibility for the Chapter 115 program is based on income and assets. Income is how much money you receive each month, and includes wages, salary, VA compensation and pension, government benefits, and dividends. Assets include money you have in bank accounts as well as things like stocks, bonds, and other property.
On March 29, 2021, DVS announced that individual payments received by a veteran from the most recent federal stimulus program will not affect eligibility for Chapter 115 benefits or the amount of Chapter 115 benefits a person can receive.
This change in the Chapter 115 income calculation formula helps more people qualify for veterans’ benefits.
This change will help many low-income veterans and families of those who have served qualify for Chapter 115 benefits this year. Veterans living in Massachusetts may have received payments from federal economic stimulus payments since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, if not for the recent change, could have affected whether they receive Chapter 115 benefits.
For example, under the previous rules, if a veteran received the recent economic stimulus payment of $1,400 in March 2021 along with $905 in monthly VA disability payments and applied for Chapter 115, DVS would consider the veteran to have received $2,305 in income for purposes of calculating Chapter 115 benefits. With the formula change, the veteran would now be considered to have received only $905 in income. This change may help veterans receive a higher level of Chapter 115 benefits than they would have received if DVS had not changed the program rules.
DVS has also increased asset allowances for Chapter 115 benefits recipients.
Recognizing that COVID-19 has disrupted the earning and spending of individuals and families across the Commonwealth, DVS also raised the asset allowances that are used to decide eligibility for Chapter 115 benefits.
Asset allowances can be thought of as “caps” on savings and other assets that beneficiaries can keep while receiving Chapter 115 benefits. If an applicant has assets above the allowances, the applicant will need to spend down those assets to the level of the allowance before he or she will be eligible to receive Chapter 115 benefits.
The new asset allowances are $8,400 for an individual recipient (an increase of $3,400) and $16,600 for a recipient and their dependents (an increase of $6,800). DVS says it will use these higher asset allowances for as long as the Commonwealth’s state of emergency due to COVID-19 remains in effect. For veterans who may have saved more during the COVID-19 pandemic, this change will reduce any potential downside of having extra savings this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take the lives of many of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens and disrupt the lives and plans of countless others. The Veterans Legal Clinic is committed to ensuring that veterans and their families can access to the resources they have earned through their service, especially during this challenging time.
Veterans can learn more about whether they may be eligible for Chapter 115 benefits by using our online calculator.
Not sure where to start? Help is available.
The Veterans Legal Clinic strongly encourages veterans and their eligible dependents to apply for Chapter 115 benefits. This benefit recognizes the service that veterans have provided to our state and our country and provides an important source of support for the families of those who have served.
Before you apply, you can use our online calculator to find out whether you might be eligible to receive Chapter 115 benefits.
Once you are ready to apply, you can find the application here. You will need documents including your discharge papers, proof of residency, and recent bank statements.
For more information and for help completing your application, please reach out to your Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO). Each town and district in Massachusetts has a VSO who can help veterans and their families learn about and access benefits and other resources. Click here find your VSO.
If you have trouble applying for Chapter 115 benefits or reaching your VSO, we want to hear about it. We are working to make sure all eligible veterans and their dependents get the benefits they need. You can help by telling us about your experience with your VSO and Chapter 115 by filling out this quick survey.
If DVS denies your application or your benefits are cut off, you have a right to appeal. If you want to request legal help with an appeal or have questions about Chapter 115 rules, please contact the Veterans Legal Clinic intake line at 617-390-2525 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.