Two bills increase access to mental health services at public universities and recognize the historic contributions of a female Revolutionary War veteran
(BOSTON) – Yesterday, Representative Jennifer Benson and her colleagues in the House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation to improve access to mental health services for student veterans and to honor the military service contributions of a female American Revolutionary War soldier – days before the nation celebrates Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
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 treatment resources 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 during the Revolutionary War. The commission will consist of legislators, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services, and representatives of veteran organizations.
In 1782, Sampson used the name Robert Shurtleff to join the Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment led by Captain George Webb. Disguised as a man, she participated in dangerous scouting missions, led a raiding party that captured 15 British soldiers, 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. She tended to her own wounds to avoid detection as a woman. When she later fell ill and was hospitalized, her identity was discovered.
After fighting in the War for over a year, 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 pension, and General John Patterson selected her as his aide de camp due to her bravery. Sampson is the official state heroine of Massachusetts.
These two bills build on the Legislature’s long-standing support for veterans, with Massachusetts’ benefits and services often ranked first in the nation. Most recently, the legislature passed the BRAVE Act and legislation to assist veterans with property taxes.
The bills will now go to the Senate.