Veterans, Advocates and Tech Leaders Highlight Stories of Those Assisted by Innovative Web Resource
SHREWSBURY – State officials and Veterans’ advocates today celebrated the one year anniversary of www.MassVetsAdvisor.org, a first-in-the-nation web portal that offers enhanced access to services and support for Veterans living in the Commonwealth. The site provides a single point of access where Veterans and their families can search and gauge eligibility for more than 400 state and federal benefits, as well as services provided by non-profits, including programs for education, counseling, employment, and health care among other services.
Veterans gathered in the Washington Room at Veterans Inc.’s Independence Hall with Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Secretary Coleman Nee, members of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, public officials, and Veterans’ advocates.
“We are encouraged by the response that the Veteran community has had toward MassVetsAdvisor and are extremely proud that it has made it easier for our servicemen to find the benefits they are due,” said Pamela Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “We are grateful to be a part of this program and we thank the Patrick Administration for making Veteran services a priority in the Commonwealth.”
“When I came home from my deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, I had to find most of my benefits on my own,” stated Kyle Toto, Community Manager for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and a U.S. Army Veteran. “As I’ve traveled to towns around the Commonwealth to talk about MassVetsAdvisor, I’ve seen the look of relief in the faces of Veterans who have discovered that the search for benefits – which could take weeks, months or years in some cases - has been done for them.”
Developed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, MassVetsAdvisor.org has been viewed nearly 200,000 times in the past year by over 33,000 individuals since the site’s launch on May 25, 2012. The site streamlines comprehensive data from state and federal resources, listing only the benefits and services that a Veteran qualifies for, and includes an "action plan" to help them apply for the benefits. Veterans are able to print, email, save or forward the action plan to their Veterans Services Officer (VSO) for additional one-on-one assistance.
“Veterans today are going online to find camaraderie and to get support,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “They want a 24-hour place where they can talk about GI Bill education benefits, job hunting, or just to connect with other veterans. Thanks to the Mass Broadband Institute and Mass Tech Collaborative, as well as other state and federal partners, we’ve ensured that veterans have access to this information at their fingertips – by a click of the mouse or a tap on their smartphone.”
“When we first began this project we found that there was so much goodwill and great programs that greet Veterans when they return home from deployment, but many Veterans were missing out on benefits they were eligible for. We thought technology could help solve that problem,” said Judy Dumont, Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. “Over the past year, Veterans of all ages have been able to use this website to quickly find benefits from their own homes, classrooms, offices, or local libraries.”
"Massachusetts is the national leader in providing comprehensive veterans' services for many reasons, but none more so than the strong collaborations we have made to maximize our resources and provide world-class, comprehensive benefits to our veterans and their families," said Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee. "The MassVetsAdvisor web portal is a great example of how the public and private sector can work together and accomplish a major goal in providing a one-stop, accessible and easy-to-use resource to our veterans and their families. Congratulations on the first year and DVS is excited to build upon MassVetsAvisor for years to come!"
“Veterans Inc. extends its warmest congratulations and appreciation to the staff of MassVets Advisor for a truly successful first year of operation,” stated Denis Leary, MSW, Executive Director of Veterans Inc. “The MassVetsAdvisor site has helped countless veterans and their families by providing an immediate, easy access to not only the basic benefits that all veterans deserve, but has provided the information in a user-friendly format that eliminates the internet complexities that so often discourage veterans from researching various forms of assistance. We at Veterans Inc. applaud the Governor, Secretary Nee and all the DVS staff on this wonderful accomplishment and significant milestone.”
Among the many ways MassVetsAdvisor has helped the Commonwealth’s Veterans and their families over the past year:
- A mother was able to find the application for the Purple Heart License Plate her son had earned while in Afghanistan;
- A Gold Star Family was able to connect to other families who had lost a member of their family;
- A Veteran discovered he could collect Tuition Assistance through the post-9/11 GI Bill, which resulted in a larger financial benefit while they attended school;
- A Korean War Veteran found the procedure to receive medals that had been displaced;
- A number of visitors to the website found they are eligible for additional money from the Welcome Home Bonus for subsequent deployments;
- A Veteran found that he could buy his first home without putting any money down and at an affordable fixed interest rate via the VA Home Loan Guarantee program;
- Several women Veterans discovered the Massachusetts Women Veterans’ Network, which allowed them to connect with other female service members in the Commonwealth;
- Numerous visitors became aware of a change in Massachusetts law which allowed the word “Veteran” to be printed on their driver’s licenses; and
- Nearly 8,000 Veterans have searched for their local VSO.
The Commonwealth received $1 million in federal funding to promote broadband adoption and usage for veterans, which was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). 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.