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Machado v. Goldberg

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

December 21, 2018

Jeffrey MACHADO and Herik Espinosa, on Behalf of Themselves and of Similarly Situated Individuals
v.
Deborah GOLDBERG, in Her Official Capacity as Treasurer and Receiver General, and Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board Washington Santos, on Behalf of Himself and of Similarly Situated Individuals
v.
Deborah Goldberg, in Her Official Capacity as Treasurer and Receiver General, and Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON JEFFREY MACHADO AND HERIK ESPINSOA’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND SUMMARY JUDGMENT; WASHINGTON SANTOS’ MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND DEFENDANTS’ CROSS-MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

         

          MICHAEL D. RICCIUTI, Associate Justice Superior Court

         The plaintiffs, Jeffrey Machado, Herik Espinosa, and Washington Santos, are Massachusetts veterans who deployed abroad during a time of war and were honorably discharged from their initial enlistments. Thereafter, the plaintiffs reenlisted, but were discharged from their final enlistments "under other than honorable conditions." The plaintiffs then applied for the "Welcome Home Bonus," which Massachusetts provides to residents who served in the United States armed forces after September 11, 2011. To be eligible for the Welcome Home Bonus, the service member must have been "discharge[d] or release[d] under honorable conditions from such service," among other criteria. Relying on the characterization of their final enlistment period as "under other than honorable conditions," the defendants, Deborah Goldberg, in her official capacity as Treasurer and Receiver General ("Treasurer"), and the Veterans’ Bonus Appeal Board ("Board"), the governmental entity within the treasury which aids in administering the Welcome Home Bonus, denied the plaintiffs’ requests. The plaintiffs challenge these denials.

         Presently before the court are four sets of motions:

Docket No. 17, 17-2056: Machado and Espinosa’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Counts I and II of their Amended Complaint under G.L. c. 30A and Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts III to VIII alleging constitutional and class claims;

Docket No. 20, 17-2056: Defendants’ Cross-Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Counts I and II of Machado and Espinosa’s Amended Complaint;

Docket No. 8, 18-1310: Santos’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Count I of his Complaint under G.L. c. 30A and Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts II to VI alleging constitutional and class claims; and

No Docket Number, 18-1310: Defendants’ Cross-Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Count I of Santos’ Complaint.

         For the reasons discussed below, and in light of the arguments made by counsel, the Court rules as follows:

Docket No. 17, 17-2056: Machado and Espinosa’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Counts I and II of their Amended Complaint is ALLOWED and their Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts III to VIII is DENIED AS MOOT;

Docket No. 20, 17-2056: Defendants’ Cross-Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Counts I and II of Machado and Espinosa’s Amended Complaint is DENIED;

Docket No. 8, 18-1310: Santos’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Count I of his Complaint is ALLOWED, and his Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts II to VI is DENIED AS MOOT; and

No Docket Number, 18-1310: Defendants’ Cross-Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Count I of Santos’ Complaint (no paper number) is DENIED.

         The Court REMANDS these matters back to the Board for reconsideration in light of this decision.

         STATUTORY BACKGROUND

         The Welcome Home Bonus statute ("Bonus Law") grants post-9/11 veterans monetary payments in amounts that vary depending on the location of their military service. The Veteran’s Bonus Division, under the direction of the Treasurer, administers the Bonus Law.

         The Bonus Law provides:

(a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, upon application, ..., there shall be paid to each person who shall have served in the armed forces of the United States in active service as part of part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom Sentinel or any successor or related operation and who was discharged or released under honorable conditions from such service, the sums specified in this section; if the domicile of every person on account of whose service the application is filed, shall have been in the commonwealth for a period of not less than 6 months before the time of his entry into the service.
(1) $1, 000 to each such veteran who performed active service outside the continental limits of the United States in the Afghanistan or Iraq area as those areas are described by proper federal authority.
(2) $500 to each such veteran who performed active service within the continental limits of the United States or outside the continental limits of the United States other than in the Afghanistan or Iraq areas for a period of 6 months or more.

St. 2005, c. 130, § 16 as amended by St. 2005, c. 167, § 4.[1] A service member who "is eligible to receive benefits under [the Bonus Law] may receive such benefits; provided, however, that an eligible resident shall receive the full bonus allowed by said [Bonus Law] upon return after his first deployment to [a qualifying military operation].... He shall thereafter receive 50 per cent of the bonus ... after each subsequent return from deployment to [a qualifying military operation]." St. 2011, c. 171, § 3. Applications for a bonus under the Bonus Law "shall be filed with the state treasurer, upon forms to be furnished by [her]." St. 2005, c. 167, § 4. Then the

adjutant general shall certify to the state treasurer the dates of service and any other military information necessary to carry out the provisions of this act. The state treasurer shall furnish to the adjutant general a copy of Form DD-214 or equivalent documentation as determined by the adjutant ...

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