Veterans’ issues are often contemplated in Albany as we work to protect the rights and benefits of our brave service men and women who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedoms and keep our families safe. The 2016 legislative session was no exception, starting with the state budget which included funding for a number of vital programs. Additionally, we took action on other bills important to our veterans.
One piece of legislation, known as the Veterans Buyback Bill, was finally signed into law after passing the legislature three times and being vetoed twice. The measure, which I co-sponsored, has been a long time in coming and I am extremely pleased that this small thank you is now available to our veterans.
The new law allows all honorably discharged service members with five years of existing public pension credit to purchase three years of credit for their military service. Previously, state law only allowed World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War vets to purchase pension credits.
The goal of this law is simple – to honor those who have bravely served our country and to encourage them to return to New York and continue their public service as teachers, firefighters, police officers, and municipal and state employees. The credit is a small price to pay to recognize the training and leadership skills that our veterans received during their honorable military service.
This credit shouldn’t be based on when a veteran wore the uniform, but that he or she was willing to defend our nation, our freedoms, and our way of life. All veterans deserve this sign of respect – each and every one has earned it. If you are a veteran who works for state or local government, or know someone who is, I invite you to check on this new credit.
The 2016-17 state budget continued the senate-led support for a number of important initiatives, including: $2.8 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program; $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program; $450,000 for the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative; $200,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Advocacy Project; $200,000 for Helmets to Hardhats; and $200,000 for Warrior Salute, among other initiatives.
These programs provide valuable services to veterans from mental health counseling to job training and many other helpful topics. In many cases, veterans are in need of specialized assistance and these initiatives are proven winners when it comes to aiding our service men and women.
Another helpful resource now available to veterans is a mobile app designed to help connect veterans with vital services and programs. Through the New York State Veterans App, users can access a variety of information about state and federal veterans’ benefits directly from mobile devices. The app is supported by the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs and includes sections on healthcare, housing, employment, education, and how to file claims for financial benefits. Veterans or their family members can download the free New York State Veterans App by visiting www.ny.gov/mobileapps.