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Massachusetts veterans can now access special website to connect them to benefits

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / May 25, 2012
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The state has launched a website aimed at helping veterans and their families access an array of benefits and services available to them, including programs for employment, education, and health care, officials said Thursday.

The site, MassVetsAdvisor.org, includes a “Find Your Benefits” tab on its home page, which takes users to a database to apply for over 200 state and federal benefits.

Veterans can narrow the database by entering their military branch and service — such as Vietnam or the Global War on Terrorism — and sort the benefits alphabetically or by popularity.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Kyle Toto of Newton, 28, a US Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. “I think what makes this site different from the others I’ve seen is that you can actually search for exactly what you may be qualified for.”

Toto will help administer the site as a community manager with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which received federal funding to develop the site with the state Department of Veterans Services and nonprofits.

He said having a central database will be a major asset to veterans, who face many tasks when they return to civilian life.

“I had to find a new apartment, get back to work, get back to school, get a new truck,” Toto said. “I didn’t have time to necessarily sit around and search for benefits, and that’s what’s exciting about this site.’’

Coleman Nee, the state’s secretary of veterans’ services, praised the website in a phone interview.

“The biggest complaint we hear from veterans about services is not that there isn’t anything [available], but more that there’s no coordination between services,” he said. “We think the Web portal goes a long way” toward addressing the lack of coordination.

Veterans’ spouses, children, and parents can also find benefit information, and providers serving veterans can register on the site.

Among the benefits featured on the site is the state’s Welcome Home Bonus, which enables veterans to receive payments of up to $1,000 when they return from duty, depending on their deployment or stateside service.

The website launch came as legislators sent the Valor Act, a bill that would extend new benefits to veterans, to the governor’s desk on Thursday, the Senate president’s spokesman said.

In a statement, Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, who is chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services, said the new website will be a boon to Massachusetts veterans.

“We thank the Obama administration and our congressional delegation for their support as we launch this new Web portal to help veterans across the Commonwealth more easily access the benefits they deserve,” Murray said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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