We’re in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Many people are looking for help in any way they can get it, and it shows in the numbers. Nationally, unemployment benefit numbers have skyrocketed; small businesses are applying for special loans; people are anxiously awaiting their stimulus checks. Everyone needs help, and we’re working to make sure veterans in Massachusetts are taken care of too.
Statewide, there’s been an uptick of low-income veterans accessing and applying for Chapter 115 Benefits. We’ve seen it in our own web traffic numbers, and Boston Veteran Commissioner Robert Santiago has seen it in the amount of people asking him about the program.
Last month, we saw a giant spike in our site’s traffic over a three day period. Between March 17-20, we saw a 1000% increase in people accessing our Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator. Since then, we’ve continued to see an above average cadence of users to the site.
These increases indicate that people are looking for help. And it’s important to make sure that they are able to get that help, despite physical offices being closed and social distancing orders keeping people apart.
The Veterans Legal Clinic office wants to make sure Chapter 115 continues to be a resource for veterans during this time. Chapter 115 is available to qualifying veterans and dependents. The program offers monthly financial assistance to low income veterans and their families, or one-time emergency funds. Veterans can help determine if they may be eligible by using our online calculator.
The state is still processing claims to Chapter 115, and veterans should continue to apply. In light of the crisis, the process looks a little different–with Veterans’ Service Officers (VSOs) taking applications electronically or over the phone. While the Department of Veterans’ Services and VSOs across Massachusetts are working to ensure veterans are able to apply for and access Chapter 115 benefits, the logistical challenges of remote work may be having a negative effect on the ability of veterans in some towns and cities to connect with their VSOs. We, along with our partners at Veterans Legal Services, have created a survey to try and identify any gaps in the system. By collecting this information we will be able to better advocate on behalf of veterans throughout the Commonwealth. If you have experienced any difficulty in contacting your VSO or applying for Chapter 115, we encourage you to take this quick and anonymous survey.
In times like these, anything helps and veterans need to know that these benefits exist. They’ve earned them– and they should be able to access them too.