Administration Re-Files Bill to Honor Veterans Lost to Service-Related Illness

The Baker-Polito Administration has re-filed legislation to establish the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity, which will be presented by the Massachusetts National Guard to the families of veterans who lost their lives to service-related illnesses and injuries.

“The Medal of Fidelity is an important opportunity to honor the brave men and women and their families who have served not just the Commonwealth, but the nation,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Service-related injuries and illnesses can persist long past service, and our administration is proud to offer legislation that, if passed, will demonstrate our gratitude for the sacrifices of our veterans and their loved ones.”

The bill, entitled “An Act Relative to Establishing the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity,” will authorize the Commonwealth to award the Medal of Fidelity to the next-of-kin of Massachusetts service members who “died as the result of service-connected diseases, conditions or injuries that are related to either exposure to harmful toxins, herbicides, agents, and materials or service-related post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Complementing the Medal of Liberty, which is presented to the families of Massachusetts veterans who die of combat-related physical injuries, the Medal of Fidelity will recognize service-connected injuries related to exposure to harmful substances, such as Agent Orange, as well as death attributed to service-related mental illness.

“The brave men and women who serve in the military suffer visible and invisible trauma. Massachusetts is a leader in providing benefits and services to veterans, and helping veterans access mental health and other services,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “We can never express enough gratitude for those who have served, but we can take every opportunity to honor and pay our respects to those who give so much to us, and their families.”

The bill will also authorize a commission to make Medal of Fidelity award recommendations to the Governor. The commission will be composed of The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard and two field grade officers of the armed forces of the Commonwealth.

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