Rep. John Velis
This was a busy week in the House of Representatives. In the week before Veteran’s Day, we had multiple bills that dealt with Veteran’s issues and acknowledging the historical contributions of female veterans. We also saw greatly improved numbers with the voter turnout from the primary which was great.
My colleagues and I passed two pieces of legislation to improve the mental health care for student veterans and to honor the military service contributions of a female American Revolutionary War soldier. One bill establishes a continuing education program – administered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School – to train public higher education counselors on the symptoms of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and available resources for treatment for veterans attending state colleges and universities.
The legislation aims to provide the necessary training for both clinical and non-clinical counselors working to support the unique needs of the more than 2,500 veteran students attending the state’s 29 public higher education institutions. The second bill establishes a 15-member commission to design a memorial in honor of Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army. The commission will consist of legislators, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services, the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth, and representatives of veteran organizations.
In 1782, Sampson used the name Robert Shurtleff to join the elite Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment led by Captain George Webb at West Point, N.Y. Over the following year and a half, she participated in dangerous scouting missions, led a raid that brought about the capture of 15 Tory men, and stormed a British fort during the Siege of Yorktown.
Over the course of her service, Sampson sustained injuries including a forehead gash from a sword and a gunshot wound to the thigh. For the latter, she removed the bullet herself to avoid detection as a woman. When she later fell seriously ill and was hospitalized, her identity was discovered. On October 23, 1783, she received an honorable discharge and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for her service in the Continental Army. John Hancock and Paul Revere assisted her in obtaining her military pension, and General John Patterson selected her as his aide de camp due to her bravery and leadership. Sampson is the official state heroine of Massachusetts.
There was an update to legislation I discussed about a month ago titled an Act to Support Improved Financial Stability in Higher Education. The legislation requires higher education institutions to make public and accessible financial reports and requires any institution facing financial risk of closure to develop contingency plans to ensure a process is in place to assist and inform its students and other stakeholders. The legislation also establishes financial penalties on institutions for non-compliance with reporting and planning. The bill requires ethics and fiduciary training for higher education trustees and board members. The House and Senate worked to get the bill before Governor Baker where it now waits to see if it will be signed.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about bills or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My office can be reached at [email protected] or (413) 572-3920. Have a great week!