(BOSTON) – The Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed two pieces of legislation on Wednesday to improve mental health care for student Veterans and to recognize Veterans’ historical contributions.
“We’re proud today to take action to further support and recognize veterans for their service and sacrifice to our country, especial those who are students and may be suffering from the invisible wounds of war,” saidHouse Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “By building a memorial to recognize the contributions and bravery of Deborah Sampson, we send a deserving message of validation and support for our past, present and future female service members. I thank Chair Campbell for her thoughtful and diligent work on these issues.”
first bill, filed by Representative James Arciero of Westford, will expand access
to mental health care for Veterans in higher education by creating a continuing
education program to train public higher education counselors on the symptoms
of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and available
resources for treatment. The program will be developed and carried out by the
University of Massachusetts Medical School and will include instruction on
military culture and its influence on student Veteran learning, as well as common
challenges faced by Veterans in higher education.
higher education is an important avenue through which Veterans transition back
into civilian life and prepare for productive and meaningful careers. Yet many
student Veterans struggle with PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance use, and
suicidal ideation, conditions that make success in the classroom significantly
more challenging. Student Veterans are also at greater risk for social
isolation and report feeling less supported by their peers.
the high risk of the student Veteran population and their unique needs, it is
necessary for counselors, both clinical and non-clinical, at the state’s 29 institutions
of public higher education to have the tools to support Veterans who are grappling
with the invisible wounds of war. This legislation will create a stronger
network of on-campus care to ensure that student Veterans feel understood and
supported, and that their needs do not slip through the cracks.
roughly 2,500 student Veterans enrolled in the UMass system, a number that will
likely increase as more Veterans take advantage of educational benefits in the
federal Post-9/11 GI Bill and proposed in the Massachusetts BRAVE Act, this
legislation is a necessary measure to guarantee Veterans in higher education
have the resources to succeed.
The legislation requires the continuing education program to be developed within 180 days of passage of the bill. The program represents a strong collaboration between UMass Medical School and the state’s public colleges and universities that will both save costs and improve effectiveness
The second bill establishes a commission to design a memorial in the State House for Deborah Sampson, a hero of the American Revolution who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army.
1782, Sampson used the name “Robert Shurtleff” to join the elite Fourth
Massachusetts Infantry Regiment led by Captain George Webb at West Point, New
York. 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.
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. Her identity was later discovered
when she fell seriously ill, became unconscious, and had to be taken to a
hospital. On October 23, 1783, Sampson was honorably discharged and was the
only woman to receive a full military pension for her participation in the Continental Army.
was held in high esteem by key historical figures in the Revolutionary period.
John Hancock and Paul Revere assisted her in obtaining her military pension,
and General John Patterson selected her as his aide de camp on account of her
bravery and leadership. He frequently noted her boldness in charging into
battle on horseback, leading her fellow soldiers.
has received significant recognition on the state and federal levels. She is
the official state heroine of Massachusetts, and May 23rd is
annually recognized in Massachusetts as Deborah Sampson Day. The Massachusetts
Women Veterans’ Network has named an award in her honor that is given each year
to a woman Veteran who demonstrates exceptional service to her community and in
her military career. The federal government commissioned a ship in Sampson’s
honor during World War II, dubbed the Liberty Ship S.S. Deborah Gannett (her married
name). Because of her impressive feats of bravery, her historical significance,
and her widespread renown, Sampson meets the very high bar set for those who
are worthy of being memorialized in the State House.
commission will consist of 15 members including legislators, the Secretary of
the Department of Veterans’ Service, the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth,
and representatives of several Veterans organizations. Members of the
commission will discuss the design and location of Sampson’s memorial as well
as where funding should come from. The legislation requires the commission to
issue its recommendations by March 1, 2020.
two bills now await passage in the Senate.