Site Designed To Assist Low-Income Veterans Access State Financial Assistance Has Seen 1500% Increase During Economic Downturn
BOSTON – As economic uncertainty has gripped families across Massachusetts, a website designed to assist low-income veterans access state financial assistance has seen a spike of approximately 1500% over the past three days.
The Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator – created by the Veterans Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School – assists veterans in determining if they are eligible for state financial benefits established under Chapter 115. For the month of February and early March of this year, it had traffic of approximately 50 unique users per day. From Tuesday through Thursday of this week, it has seen an enormous spike and averaged over 750 unique users per day. On Thursday alone, more than 1200 people visited the site.
Massachusetts is home to approximately 380,000 veterans. A 2017 report by the State Auditor’s Office found that between 2014 and 2016, approximately 14,000 individuals received Chapter 115 benefits. Thousands more may be eligible.
“As we hit difficult economic times, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of veterans and families who are trying to determine if they are eligible for state financial assistance,” said Julia Schutt of the Veterans Legal Clinic. “These are cash benefits that veterans have earned and are available right now to low-income veterans and their dependents. We encourage veterans to visit our site – or to call their local Veterans’ Service Office – to learn more and begin the process of determining if they are eligible.”
Under Chapter 115 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Commonwealth, along with town and city governments, provides financial assistance for qualifying low-income veterans and their surviving family members who are struggling to make ends meet. The monthly financial assistance can be used to help veterans pay their medical bills, for emergency assistance, or to help prevent homelessness and utility shutoff. Monthly Chapter 115 benefits can range from a few dollars to over $1,000 per month, depending on the veteran’s income and expenses. The benefits are administered by the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) and local municipalities’ Veterans’ Service Offices (VSO).
Veterans and their dependents can visit the online calculator, answer simple questions, and receive an immediate estimate of their potential eligibility for Chapter 115 benefits. If they are eligible, users can download a form with their answers to the tool’s screening questions and connect with their local VSO. In partnership with the state, the VSO will assist the veteran or dependent with their official application for Chapter 115 benefits and manage the process of accessing benefits should the applicant meet eligibility requirements.
For more information, veterans should visit MassVetBen.org.
The Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School provides pro bono civil legal assistance to veterans and their family members. Our goal is to protect the legal rights of the veterans community through determined, passionate, and effective advocacy. In addition to representing individual clients, the Clinic also pursues broader initiatives to improve the systems that serve the veteran community. And because it is part of the Legal Services Center, the Clinic is able to leverage a wide range of expertise and advocacy resources for our community’s most vulnerable members.